The game was not always pretty. It featured lots of grinding. It was, like so many other road battles during the season, a hard-fought victory for Pittsburgh.
But once in a while, an opportunity comes along to stop and appreciate the joys of the game. While the victory will be remembered by most for halting the Penguins' three-game losing streak, it will also be recalled as Jayson Megna's night.
An undrafted free agent with hockey roots in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb., Megna made a name for himself with the first goal and assist of his career in his second NHL game. Megna set up the Penguins' first score when he drove to the net and fired a shot off the pads of Carolina goaltender Justin Peters, earning an assist when Tanner Glass buried the rebound.
Then, with Pittsburgh looking for breathing room with a 2-1 lead in the third, Megna went to the net and enjoyed the good fortune of having a Sidney Crosby shot deflect off him and into the net.
"I felt it go off my shin pad and I looked back and saw it in the net, so I figured it was probably me," he said. "Not how I dreamed it up, but I'll take it any way I can get it."
Though he described the goal calmly, his celebration was in line with those of most NHL players who find the net for the first time. There was a fist pump, a twirl and a smile -- clear signs of excitement with scoring that first one.
"It's hard to describe, to put in words," said Megna, who scored 12 points in 56 games at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League last season. "It's a great feeling. Even now I can't explain it. I was really jacked up for it."
Only a select few can say they did it with an assist from a star. Megna's moment will always be special because Crosby's name will appear after his in parentheses. While the rookie held court with the media afterwards, the Penguins captain sat unbothered in his locker for a moment, until he was asked about his role in the first goal.
"I don't know how many it's been, but I've been in on a few," Crosby said. "It's still fun to see the look on every guy's face when he scores that first goal. There's nothing you can say that explains it. It's just pure joy. It's a lot of hard work and a dream come true for every guy who scores his first NHL goal. It never gets old."
The helper on Megna's goal was Crosby's second of the night. After Hurricanes' forward Nathan Gerbe tied the game late in the first period during a 5-on-3 power play, Crosby set up Chris Kunitz for the go-ahead goal in the second period. He took a long pass from Brooks Orpik at the offensive blue line before turning outside, then curling in at the top of the faceoff circle. He put a pass on the tape of Kunitz, who redirected the puck past Justin Peters on the left door step.
Orpik assisted on all three Pittsburgh goals, good for the second three-point night of his career.
While the Penguins were glad to put an end to their losing streak, they received some bad injury news Monday.
Defenseman Rob Scuderi will need surgery for a broken ankle sustained Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He left Raleigh Monday morning to be re-examined by team doctors. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said there is no timetable for his recovery.
"For a time, we're going to be at the seven (defensemen) we have here," Bylsma said. "We have the depth and guys who can step in and play and make our group strong. Obviously, we'll be missing what Rob Scuderi brings to our team."
As Pittsburgh climbed out of a three-game tailspin, the Hurricanes find themselves caught in one. The offense is sputtering, with only modest production from some of the front-line forwards and little scoring depth. In the Hurricanes' eight combined regulation and overtime losses, they have scored more than two goals just once.
"In the third, Pittsburgh got the lead, and they know how to shut teams down," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We got pushed out of the game. We weren't able to generate anything in the third period. They played a heavier game than we did. They won more battles than we did. They grinded harder."
Megna won't remember the game for the grind. He'll recall the hard-driving assist and the first goal on the helper from Crosby. He will always have the puck and the memory of his parents being at the arena. And of course, he might be tempted to revise the play-by-play with Crosby some day when he has kids who want to hear about their dad's first NHL goal.
"He will definitely remember it was from Crosby," Bylsma said. "I think he will remember it [going] top shelf a couple years from now."
No chance, Megna insisted.
"No, I'll probably just tell them like it is," he said.
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