Analysis from Raleigh
→ Though the Carolina Hurricanes played their best game in over two weeks, it still wasn't enough to slow their skid as they were unable to topple the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-1 loss. Jeff Skinner had the lone Canes' goal, while Sidney Crosby's league-leading tally in the second period was the difference.
"We had stretches where we were pushing and had some real good chances," Skinner said. "We've got a find a way to get one."
"The effort was good. We played hard, for the most part," head coach Bill Peters said. "I thought guys played hard."
Video: CAR Recap: Skinner's goal not enough in 3-1 loss
→ The Hurricanes have scored just four goals in their last five games, and tonight was yet another example in a growing list of games in which the team had the edge in shots and scoring chances but not what ultimately counts.
"As of late, we haven't been able to score much 5-on-5, if at all. If you do that, it puts a lot of pressure on everything else," Ron Hainsey said. "We haven't been able to get leads."
"You go through ups and downs throughout the season. You go through stretches where everything seems to be bouncing your way, and then you go through stretches that are the opposite," Skinner said. "We'll keep staying with it, keep trying to generate chances like that and things will hopefully pay off for us in the end."
→ The Penguins snagged a 1-0 lead just 135 seconds into tonight's game when Scott Wilson parked himself in the slot and got a stick on Patric Hornqvist's point shot.
"We didn't need to give up the one early in the game," Peters said. "It's a simple play. It's a box out. There's a guy net-front. Got to tie him up, have his stick, be physical. Simple mistakes."
The Hurricanes answered back less than six minutes later on the tail end of perhaps their most impressive power play performance of the season. Jeff Skinner was the star of the man advantage, and he capped the shift off with his team-leading 20th goal of the season. As the Hurricanes held the zone for the entire power play, former Hurricane Matt Cullen turned the puck over along the far boards, Phil Di Giuseppe poked it to Lee Stempniak and Stempniak slid it over to Skinner in the slot for the finish.
"That's the level of work we need to have on a consistent basis to be successful," Skinner said.
After the Penguins out-shot the Hurricanes 4-0 in the first few minutes of the game, the Canes registered the next 13 of 14 shots on goal, but it remained a 1-1 game after 20 minutes.
"We had a really, really good start, but we just couldn't get the lead and take off," Hainsey said.
Video: Hear from Skinner, Hainsey and Peters Postgame
→ Just as the Hurricanes should have been on the board in the first 40 minutes against the Maple Leafs, they had ample opportunity, including two power plays, to take a lead on the Penguins in the second period.
"The power play gave us momentum in the first, and then we needed to do more with the two in the second," Peters said.
Instead, the Pens were the more opportunistic bunch, as they made haste on a gift-wrapped 5-on-3 advantage in the last five minutes of the middle frame. Phil Kessel skated the puck to the point and let a wrister go that was redirected in by Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leader in goals.
"Don't make it harder than it needs to be," Peters said of the 5-on-3 opportunity.
"When you have an opportunity to get a lead against a team like this you need to do it because if you don't, you see what happens," Hainsey said. "They get a 5-on-3, capitalize and then you're chasing from there."
Evgeni Malkin scored on a one-timer off a faceoff in the third period to stretch his team's lead to two goals.
→ A weekend slate of games will bring an end to the Hurricanes' five-game homestand. The Canes will square off with the Ottawa Senators on Friday night, followed by a Sunday matinee against the Calgary Flames.