Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 5-3 setback at Carolina:
Pittsburgh have been down 3-0 to Carolina entering the final frame, but that score didn’t reflect just how well the Penguins had been playing.
Pittsburgh had outshot Carolina 23-13 through the first 40 minutes and had gotten a plethora of quality scoring chances, but the Hurricanes had capitalized on the few mistakes Pittsburgh had made and goalie Cam Ward was standing on his head.
And while a three-goal deficit – on the road, nonetheless – could be too daunting to overcome for some teams, the Penguins rolled up their sleeves and went to work in an impressive display of character, battling back to even the score at 3-3 – led by Jordan Staal
’s two-goal effort.
“Everybody was great in the third period,” defenseman Brooks Orpik
said. “We talked about it going into it. We said we were happy with the effort, we just made some mistakes that they capitalized on.”
Added head coach Dan Bylsma, “We still felt like we had the potential to come back. Right from the start coming out, we set the tone for that period. Some great plays, some great battling, the PK. We fought right back into that game with six minutes left and tied it 3-3.”
The Hurricanes would not allow the Penguins to get the lead, cementing the victory with two late goals. But the Penguins certainly made them work for it, and that’s something for them to be proud of and learn from.
“The effort was really good again,” Orpik said. “Just some mistakes with the system that we’ve just got to learn from.”
NO STAAL TASKJordan Staal
has a habit of stepping up when his team needs him most.
The Penguins center tallied twice in just over a three-minute span early in the third period to spearhead his team’s rally from a 3-0 deficit.
He began the final frame centering James Neal
and Evgeni Malkin
as that line’s normal winger, Steve Sullivan
, did not play in the third period with what Bylsma deemed a lower-body injury.
Staal and Malkin have played together before over the years, and the chemistry seemed to instantly reignite as they teamed up to get the Penguins on the board just 1:40 into the period.
“It’s not the first time they’ve played together,” Bylsma said. “With Steve going out, we went there really early on and as we were trying to get some more goals, we use that occasionally.”
It definitely worked, as the play started with Neal throwing a puck over to Malkin on the half wall before beelining to the front of the net. Malkin fed Staal, stationed at the top of the slot, with a pass right in his wheelhouse. Staal sent a heavy one-timer past Ward to make the score 3-1.
Bylsma said “when you’re playing with ‘Geno,’ you’ve got to get open” – and that was the exact mindset Staal had.
“He sees the ice so well,” Staal said of Malkin. “You just try to get open and do the right things, and he usually takes care of the rest.”
With the momentum swinging over to the Penguins’ side, the Hurricanes seemingly caught a break with Arron Asham
going to the box at the 4:31 mark. But it would be Staal who would strike again, converting a shorthanded breakaway 12 seconds into the disadvantage.
On the play, Orpik won a battle behind his own net that allowed him to ring a pass to Matt Cooke
on the boards. Cooke then made a perfect home-run pass to a breaking Staal, who went in on Ward and faked hard to his left, juked back to his right and tucked the puck underneath Ward.
“I was calling it for it pretty good,” Staal said. “’Cookie’ made a great pass to me. Having a full breakaway from the red line in is nice. I was able to squeak it in through his five-hole there.”
Not only did Staal get on the scoresheet, but he was the guy out there late in the game taking vital offensive zone faceoffs with the Penguins trying to battle back.
He won three huge faceoffs during the last minute of play with goalie Brent Johnson
pulled for the extra attacker.
The 23-year-old now ranks second on the team behind Neal with eight goals, six of those coming in his last six games.
NEAL KEEPS STREAKING
With the assist on Staal’s first goal, James Neal
extended his season-high point streak to six games – tallying eight points (3G-5A) over that span.
After recording a team-best (tied) 11 points (9G-2A) during the month of October, Neal has stayed scorching with six points (2G-4A) in his first four games of November.
He’s been the epitome of consistency, notching at least one point in 14 of the team’s 17 games.
PK KEEPS ROLLING
Not only did the Penguins score on the penalty kill against the Hurricanes on Saturday to give them a league-leading four shorthanded tallies, but Pittsburgh also thwarted all four of Carolina’s power-play attempts.
The Penguins have allowed just three power-play goals on 50 attempts this season for a 94-percent success rate, which leads the NHL.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo