The Penguins and Hurricanes played a sluggish and sometimes downright sloppy brand of hockey Friday night at PNC Arena.
"I think it's the coach's manual that you try not to look too hard at the game after the Christmas break," head coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don't think any of the players feel really good on the ice."
The Penguins came out of Raleigh with a 4-3 overtime victory, thanks to a goal off the blade of winger James Neal, to give them their eighth win in the last nine games.
Sidney Crosby, Chris Conner and Deryk Engelland also tallied for Pittsburgh. Carolina had goals from Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe and Drayson Bowman.
NEAL SEALS WIN
The winning sequence for the Pens began in the defensive zone. After Marc-Andre Fleury made a save, Pittsburgh broke the puck out the opposite way.
Engelland made an outlet to Neal. He carried the puck over the blue line and pushed it to linemate Jussi Jokinen. Neal then split the two defenders and received the puck back from Jokinen. Neal snapped the puck low and hard on net and beat netminder Justin Peters for the W.
"I got it over to 'Juice' at the blue line and Juice made a great pass over a guy's stick to get it back to me," Neal said. "I just got a quick shot off. Good plays all around by 'Engo' and Juice.
"I was just trying to get it off as quick as possible. Their Dman was diving on my heels trying to get his stick on it. Lucky enough I got it through. It felt good."
The sequence that led to the game-winning goal for the Penguins didn't start off as promising. The Hurricanes had the puck in the Pittsburgh zone when a Hurricane blasted the puck on goal.
The shot came up high and caught Fleury in his neck. He was shaken by the shot, but didn't ask the referee, whom checked on Fleury right away, to stop the play. The Penguins went the other way and scored to win the game.
"I lost my breathe for a little bit, but it was fine," he said. "I saw we had the puck going up. It wasn't that bad. A little stinger. When 'Nealer' scored it made everything good."
The Penguins lineup has been decimated by injuries and suspensions this season. They've lost 218 man-games to injury and 10 to suspension already to date. But they had some good news against the Hurricanes.
Defenseman Engelland returned after serving his five-game suspension. Blueliner Brooks Orpik and forward Tanner Glass were removed from Injured Reserve and were re-inserted into the lineup.
Before the game Engelland said his conditioning was fine after the long layoff, but he wasn't concerned about his hands being ready. As it turns out, his hands were more than ready.
With the score tied at 2-2 Engelland collected the puck at the blue line and whipped a slap shot on goal that found its way through to give the Penguins a 3-2 edge with 6:45 left in the third period.
"I had a lot of time and a good net-front by Joe (Vitale)," Engellland said. "I just tried to get all I could."
PENS ADAPT WITHOUT DUPUIS
The Penguins have a big hole at right wing on the No. 1 line with the absence of Pascal Dupuis, who could miss the rest of the season with ACL surgery. The team rotated Vitale and Neal in Dupuis' role alongside Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby.
Author: Sam Kasan