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Penguins' woes continue in loss to Hurricanes

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com

PITTSBURGH -- Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward allowed one goal for the second time in as many days, but reversed the result against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Ward made 37 saves to help the Hurricanes to a 2-1 win against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center. He denied 15 of 16 shots in a 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday.

Jordan Staal and John-Michael Liles each scored power-play goals for Carolina (13-15-5).

"I think we got off to a good start. I made a couple good saves early that got me into the game and I don't really care what anybody says about the Penguins," Ward said. "They got a really good team over there, some high-end skill, and you really have to be on your toes. Fortunately tonight, I felt really comfortable. I felt ready and the whole entire team competed."

Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh (15-14-3), which has lost four straight in regulation under coach Mike Sullivan. The Penguins have lost five straight home games (0-3-2) dating back to a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 25.

Pittsburgh has been outscored 15-4 since Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston on Dec. 12.

"I think, as a team, we generated a lot of scoring chances," Sullivan said. "I thought our even-strength play was as good as it's been since I've been here. I don't think we got rewarded for our efforts, but I think I see signs of improvement in a lot of areas. I thought we limited Carolina's chances at our end of the rink. I thought our power play was better. … For me, there's a couple of positive things to look at and take out of this game."

Matthew Murray, the 2014-15 American Hockey League goaltender and rookie of the year, made 24 saves in his NHL debut. He was recalled by the Penguins from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury recovering from a concussion.

"It's kind of hard to see the good in things right now," Murray said. "It's pretty frustrating, but it was a very exciting day for me. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way I planned, but I was proud of how I played."

Murray surrendered the game's opening goal on the second shot he faced. With Pittsburgh defenseman Adam Clendening in the penalty box for holding, Jordan Staal drove past defenseman Olli Maatta before his shot bounced over Murray's shoulder for a 1-0 Carolina lead 4:57 into the first period.

"In your first game, you're going to have a little jitters," Staal said. "He settled in and played a pretty solid game, but it was a little flicker on net and it ended up going in."

Staal, who scored 120 goals in 431 games with the Penguins from 2006-2012, scored his first goal in nine games against Pittsburgh.

"It was nice [to score]," Staal said. "It would've been better against [Fleury], but obviously I'll take it against the Penguins. It was a good effort from everyone."

Liles scored the Hurricanes' second power-play goal on three first-period opportunities to extend the lead to 2-0 with 5:04 remaining. Brett Pesce set up Liles' one-time slap shot that avoided traffic from Andrej Nestrasil and three Penguins before getting past Murray for Liles' first goal since March 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks and his ninth goal since 2011-12.

Pittsburgh took advantage of its first power-play opportunity to cut the deficit in half 1:59 into the second period. Defenseman Trevor Daley dropped the puck to Malkin near the blue line, and he skated in toward the left circle before sending a wrist shot past Ward with Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby in front.

The goal ended the Penguins' drought of 19 consecutive unsuccessful power plays. It was Malkin's seventh power-play goal of the season, which is more than the total goals scored by any other Pittsburgh player except Phil Kessel (nine).

"It's one goal. It's not enough," Malkin said. "We scored a power-play goal, but it's just one goal. We need to score maybe a couple goals 5-on-5. We played better, but it's a tough loss. … We had great chances to score, but it's still bad luck. I don't know what’s going on, but I see that we play better."

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