once again proved why he deserves to skate on the Penguins’ top line. His two goals helped push the Penguins over Carolina, 5-4, Friday night in a shootout at CONSOL Energy Center.
“We did a lot of good things,” Kunitz said. “We scored on some rushes and the power play.”
The Hurricanes scored just 42 seconds into the game, but the Penguins weren’t fazed and battled back.
At 8:55 of the first period, Kunitz took a pass from Evgeni Malkin
and ripped a wrist shot from the top right circle past Carolina’s Justin Peters to tie the game, 1-1.
“Obviously, the first shift wasn’t very good since they scored on us,” Kunitz said. “But we redeemed ourselves.”
Malkin assisted on another Kunitz goal in the third period while the Penguins were on a power play with the game tied, 3-3.
Kunitz threw the puck toward the net, and Peters covered it with his pads. But Kunitz did what he does best and crashed the net. A little chaos ensued and some Penguins on the ice immediately indicated that the puck went across the line.
After a long review, the referee excited the sellout crowd when he signaled for the good goal.
“I was pretty surprised,” Kunitz said. “I’ve had a knack of some of them not counting. But at that point you don’t know if they’re looking at the refs whistle or his intent to blow the whistle. So you hope they have a good (camera) angle.”
“I don’t know if there was a whistle issue or not,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We can definitely see with the fans’ reaction that the puck went in the net, but right away, we thought that we were going to have to see if it beat the whistle.”
The goal put the Penguins ahead 4-3. While the game would eventually be decided in a shootout, Kunitz’s power-play heroics were a major factor for the Penguins earning the two points.
During a first period man-advantage, a Hurricane lifted the puck high in a clearing attempt, but Kunitz leaped about three feet into the air and snatched the puck with his hand to keep the play alive.
He finished the night with two goals on four shots, four hits and a blocked shot throughout 21:09 of ice time.
But Kunitz was quick to deflect credit to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
, who made 30 saves in the victory.
“Our goaltender played unbelievable,” Kunitz said. “He did some great things in the shootout to get the win.”
A win that wasn’t possible without Kunitz’s play.