Expect the Penguins to play more games like they did in the first 55 minutes of their 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes while Pittsburgh continues life without superstar talents Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Pittsburgh adapted its game to a tight, grinding, crashing-the-net style of hockey, and relied less on its perimeter attack. The Penguins also concentrated on playing solid in their own zone defensively.
The Penguins converted some clutch opportunities, including two special teams scores (power play and shorthanded).
The Penguins got outstanding goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was strong when he needed to be. He turned aside 24 shots, and had to stay strong on a couple Hurricanes’ chances from the doorstep. Carolina made a late push with two goals in the final five minutes to cut a 3-0 lead down to a 3-2 lead. The Penguins held on in the remaining 57.8 seconds, and managed to net two points in the NHL standings.
In the battle of the Staal brothers, the Penguins Jordan came out on top.
Jordan was a solid force for Pittsburgh in the contest at both ends of the ice. He used his 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame to shield the puck, leading to a team-high five shots on goal.
Staal was strong on the penalty kill, and even helped spring Pascal Dupuis on his game-winning shorthanded goal.
Staal was at his best late in the game. With less than a minute left in the game and the Hurricanes trailing by only one goal, 3-2, Jordan blocked a heavy shot from the point. On the game’s final faceoff with 8 seconds left, Staal won the biggest draw of the game and allowed the Penguins to kill the clock and win the game.
The Hurricanes appeared to take a 1-0 lead with less than four minutes to play in the second period. Erik Cole skated the puck down the near side and ripped a shot on net. The puck took a weird bounce, hit the crossbar and fell in the paint. The referee signaled for a goal.
However, upon further review the puck hit the butt end of Marc-Andre Fleury’s stick, hit the crossbar and never went in the net. The goal was waved off. A minute later, Dustin Jeffrey scored to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Pittsburgh would eventually run out to a 3-0 lead and hold on for a 3-2 victory.
Playing a second straight game with their dynamic scoring duo, the Penguins limited Carolina's chances until Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal scored over the final 4:25 to make things interesting.
Crosby missed his eighth consecutive game due to a concussion, and Malkin has sat out two because of a sore left knee and a sinus infection.
• Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had one of his strongest games of the season. He wasn’t tested often – turning aside only 24 shots – but the few opportunities the Hurricanes had were high quality scoring chances. Fleury made back-to-back saves on Jeff Skinner right in the crease. He made a sick stop on Eric Staal in the slot in the third period to keep it a 2-0 game. The Penguins scored a shorthanded goal seconds later.
• Following the game, as Fleury did his curtain call on the ice as the contest’s No. 1 star, he wore a Steelers helmet and waved a Terrible Towel – showing support for the Steelers, who host the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field Sunday evening.
• The Penguins and Hurricanes skated in a tight-checking contest and the game was still scoreless in the final minutes of the second period. Finally, the 0-0 score was snapped and it was the Penguins who broke through with a goal.
The two teams were skating four-on-four. Brooks Orpik kept a clearing attempt in the zone at the near point and slid a cross-ice pass to Dustin Jeffrey at the far point. Jeffrey skated to the top of the far circle before whipping a shot through traffic and behind goalie Cam Ward.
Though he didn’t pick up an assist on the play, Kris Letang created the goal. His stick-handling in the zone led to a great scoring chance at the side of the net. Letang then pressured the Hurricanes into a hurried dump that Orpik stopped. Letang gets an honorary assist.