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Aftermath: Hurricanes 2, Penguins 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins lost a tight game to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes came out of the contest on the better end of a four-point swing, since Carolina is in the middle of a playoff battle with Pittsburgh. The victory catapulted the Hurricanes into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings while dropping the Penguins to the 10th slot.

The Penguins enter the All-Star break with a 23-21-4 record and find themselves two back from the NHL tournament. It’s not the position Pittsburgh wanted to be in, but that is the reality of the situation.

Pittsburgh has been banged up all year and the eight-day layoff for the All-Star break will give them a chance to rest and get healthy. From this point on it’s do or die for the Penguins. The time has come to find out what type of character this team possesses. 
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) Cam Ward made 32 saves, Ray Whitney and Eric Staal scored and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night.

Ward, making his 13th consecutive start for Carolina, earned his 100th career victory for the Hurricanes, who won on consecutive nights after snapping a five-game losing streak.

League scoring leader Evgeni Malkin had a goal for Pittsburgh, the reigning Eastern Conference champion, which fell into 10th place in the conference heading into the All-Star break.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Bill Thomas gets physical with Rod Brind'Amour (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Opening Frame
Pittsburgh started the game fast. They scored the contest’s opening goal 2:33 into the first period and looked like the team that won three of their past four games. The Penguins controlled the play and generated a number of scoring chances but could only convert one score.

What Didn't Work: Puck Movement
While the Penguins were flying in the first period, the same couldn’t be said for the second and third. Pittsburgh’s passes were off in the final two frames and the team couldn’t generate any speed through the neutral zone. The Hurricanes really suffocated Pittsburgh’s flow in the third. If not for the late penalty, Pittsburgh may have ended up with no chances. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
This game was a goaltenders’ duel. Both netminders were stubborn in their efforts. Marc-Andre Fleury saw 40 shots and stopped all but two of them. Carolina’s Cam Ward did him one better by allowing only one goal and making 32 saves en route to the victory. It’s difficult to pick between the two but Ward - besides getting the win - played phenomenal down the stretch, particularly in the final minutes while his team was shorthanded. So Ward gets the edge in this duel.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
Pittsburgh scored the game’s first goal for the fourth consecutive game. The Penguins were working on a power play when Evgeni Malkin netted his team-leading 19th goal of the year. Sidney Crosby skated the puck around the Carolina net and setup defenseman Philippe Boucher, sneaking in from the point, for a one-timer in the near circle. Boucher’s shot squeaked through some bodies and to Malkin on the opposite side of the goal. Malkin went forehand-backhand to deposit the puck into the goal. Pittsburgh 1, Carolina 0.

The Hurricanes tied the game with a power-play score of their own. Ray Whitney took a shot from above the near circle that deflected off of the stick of Penguin defender Ryan Whitney (no relation). Though he wasn’t credited with a point on the play, Tuomo Ruutu was the goal’s biggest catalyst. He stood in the crease and right in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, completely obstructing the netminder’s view as the puck sailed behind him. Pittsburgh 1, Carolina 1.

Eric Staal - who is apparently the older brother of Jordan, or so I’ve heard - gave Carolina its first lead of the game. Staal was stationed beside the crease to Fleury’s left when Sergei Samsonov collected the puck in the corner along the goal line. Staal re-directed Samsonov’s pass into the goal. Carolina 2, Pittsburgh 1.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
The Penguins were again without the services of defenseman Brooks Orpik and forwards Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis. However, Dupuis and Talbot should return following the All-Star break. Orpik’s return is unknown.

The Penguins surrendered 40 shots in the game, though most of those came from outside the perimeter. Pittsburgh backed off every time the Hurricanes rushed the puck and gave them the edges in an attempt to clog up the middle. The strategy worked considering the Hurricanes only netted two goals, although the winning goal did come on a breakdown.

The Penguins missed a golden opportunity to tie the game late in the third period when Carolina’s Tom Gleason took a high-sticking double-minor penalty. Gleason caught Evgeni Malkin in the mouth with his blade. Pittsburgh recorded numerous shots and scoring chances but couldn’t find a way to beat Cam Ward.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh dropped to 23-21-4 on the year, with an 11-10-2 mark at Mellon Arena.

> Pittsburgh opened the scoring at 2:33 of the first period on Evgeni Malkin’s power-play goal (19). The Hurricanes scored the next two goals. Ray Whitney’s man-advantage goal late in the second tied the game, 1-1. Eric Staal netted the game-winner (20) 8:01 into the second period.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal against the Hurricanes to extend his NHL lead in points to 70 (19G-51A). Malkin’s 51 assists are a league best.

> Sidney Crosby registered an assist against Carolina. He is second in the league in scoring with 60 points (17G-43A) and his 43 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 51 (prior to San Jose’s game).

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves in the losing effort.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 90th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,972.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Eric Staal, CAR
2. Cam Ward, CAR
3. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
“We lost the battles in front of the net. It’s not always about
Xs and Os. It’s about battles and we lost that battle.”
- Head coach Michel Therrien
 

 


Author: Sam Kasan

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