The Penguins continued their march down the road, this time making a stop in Carolina to face the Hurricanes. Adding to the drama of the shortened season, tonight’s game would see the highly anticipated (or perhaps dreaded) matchup of the Penguins against former third-line center Jordan Staal, who was traded to Carolina in exchange for Brandon Sutter last year at the NHL Entry Draft.
Immediately off to the races, the teams exchanged penalties when Kris Letang was given two minutes for a cross check only to be followed by Carolina’s Chad Larose on a hooking calling. Neither team capitalized on the four-on-four advantage nor would the Penguins capitalize on their next power play; this one resulting from a roughing call to Jay Harrison. Pittsburgh would be the first on the board, the goal coming courtesy of Chris Kunitz with just under seven minutes left to go in the first period. Pittsburgh would rush up the ice as Sidney Crosby dished a pass to Kunitz while James Neal drove to the net, clearing the lane. However, Carolina’s Eric Staal’s goal in the dying seconds of the period (literally 0:25 left on the clock) tied the game. After twenty, Carolina had 13 shots to Pittsburgh’s 9.
The second period resulted in three goals for the Hurricanes, who were required to kill of a penalty immediately after puck drop when Harrison was sent to the box for another roughing call. The Canes would barrage net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury and Jiri Tlusty’s wrist shot with 4:03 off the clock gave the Hurricanes the lead. Jeff Skinner would follow with a high wrist shot to increase the lead to two a minute and forty-some seconds later. A Matt Cook breakaway almost cut the lead in half but Cam Ward was able to make the save. After exchanging a penalty or two, Carolina’s fourth of the night, and Tlusty’s second of the game, came with eleven seconds remaining in the middle frame. Heading into the final twenty, the Penguins found themselves down 4 to 1 while continuing to be outshot 12 to 9.
The only thing exchanged in the third would be a series of penalties as neither team would notch another goal. The Penguins had some excellent opportunities but just couldn’t capitalize, even pulling Fleury in the final minute. Carolina would take the game and the two points, and the two Staals would best the no Staals.
Kris Letang spent 29:15 on the ice tonight while Sidney Crosby had 24:31. Matt Niskanen, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Beau Bennett and Matt Cooke each had three shots on goal, contributing to the 27 shots sent toward Cam Ward. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 27. Despite their second consecutive loss, the Penguins continue to sit atop the Atlantic Division while remaining firmly in the second spot in the conference.
The Penguins continue to be without center Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has been sidelined since February 22 following a collision with the boards that left him with a concussion. Following the game, it was announced that Paul Martin had been diagnosed with a lower-body injury.
The Penguins will roll into Montreal on Saturday night where they will go toe-to-toe with the Canadiens for the first time this season. Game time is 7:00pm.