The Pittsburgh Penguins appeared followed their usual script to victory: heavily out-shoot the opponent (40-21), get a quick two goal lead and coast to the W. Wait, what happened? Well, throw in some undisciplined and unlucky penalties, don't draw many penalties yourself, and get some goaltending letdowns, blowing that early lead along the way. And glance no less than three pucks of the post instead of in the net. That'll about do it.
The Pens came roaring out the gates, Jordan Staal converted the hard-work of Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke into an early 1-0 lead. A few minutes later, on the power-play, Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Evgeni Malkin drove to the net with the puck, it made it's way to Guerin and he took a couple chops at it past goalie Justin Peters. The Pens were up 2-0 and looking in control.
Looks can be deceiving, however and the Carolina Hurricanes wouldn't roll over and die. The Canes got the next two goals in the next two minutes, one by Ray Whitney off some great puck movement on a Carolina PP and then Rod Brind'Amour won a draw towards Zach Boychuk. The Pens didn't seem ready for the faceoff from goalie out and Boychuk slunked to the net and got Brent Johnson leaning the wrong way to tie the game.
At this point, about 10 minutes in, we were on pace for a 12-12 score after regulation. The teams would tighten up, but early in the second period Carolina continued their push when Eric Staal grabbed a puck from down low and somehow got it under Johnson's pads. Four minutes later Cooke would beat Peters from in tight to tie the game and we'd have no more scoring in regulation.
From the opening faceoff the Pens pushed again, Crosby won the draw, jumped into the offensive zone and found Pascal Dupuis. The shot went high and Carolina quickly transitioned, Ray Whitney took the puck low and cross-iced a pass to defenseman Brian Pothier who snapped a quick shot over Johnson. Game.
- Johnson had an uneven outing, he'd like a few of those goals back (including the Staal one) but Johnny did stop a breakaway by Erik Cole in the 3rd period that looking back on it, may have earned the Pens a point in the standings.
- Earlier in the day Dan Bylsma said Pascal Dupuis is playing the best hockey he ever has as a Penguin, and it's difficult to disagree. Dupuis should considerable jump tonight on a 2 assist effort, and he also had 3 shots on goal (3 more missing the net), a hit and 2 blocked shots. In the five games since the Olympic break, Dupes has 5 points (3g, 2a).
- There isn't a book on Justin Peters yet; he's only played in 6 NHL games, but he impressed tonight. The Pens brought the heat on him early, but after surrendering two goals in the first 5:29 he really settled down and ended up nabbing 37 of the 40 shots he saw.
- Ray Whitney, oft rumored to have been a Penguin target (and who reportedly wanted to come to Pittsburgh) seemed to have an extra gear against his would-be suitor. It's no surprise, since the lockout "The Wizard" has 24 points (9g, 15a) in 17 games coming into tonight against the Pens. Add a goal and game winning assist to the tally. OK, OK, we get it Ray...If you're a free agent this summer (and don't want a three year deal) and want to talk, call Shero.
- Here's an unusual and alarming stat: Pittsburgh's defensive players only combined for 1 blocked shot (Jordan Leopold got it). A lot of that had to do with the Pens keeping the puck out of their zone for most of the night, but it's indicative a little bit about how they seemed to play. Gotta get in the lanes and be willing to do the dirty work, boys.
- Early in the game, Sergei Gonchar got checked by Chad LaRose in an awkward hit that stumbled both players. Sarge took his number and later boarded LaRose, drawing a penalty that gave the Hurricanes the PP goal from Whitney that put some wind in their sails. Ouch.
- It wouldn't get better for Gonchar, after Mark Eaton took an interference penalty, Sarge flipped a puck out of the zone that missed the top of the glass, sending #55 to the box and granting Carolina 1:38 of a 5-on-3 power play. The Pens PK'ers did some awesome work clogging shooting lanes, but really there was some poor execution and decisions made by the Canes and they didn't so much as get a shot on goal. It wasn't pretty.
- Taking note of how Leopold's integrating into the Pens lineup: no other Pens defenseman played more at even-strength tonight than Leopold (20:01). And for the third straight game, no goals went into Pittsburgh's net while Leopold was on the ice.
- Other new guy Alex "The Ukraine Pain Train" Ponikarovsky had his quietest game of his young Penguin career, but he seems to be keeping up with Malkin well, he's going to the net and he's throwing some checks in the corner. All in all, not a bad outing, even if not a memorable one.
On the macro level, the Pens did a lot of things right, but they can't be satisfied with the defensive lapses and the end result. There's no time to rest and feel sorry for themselves, as the boys have to travel up to New Jersey to play the Devils, who are rested and waiting, having just hung six goals on the New York Rangers last night.