The hockey world was waiting for this one: Jordan Staal facing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time. Brandon Sutter facing the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time. The lines and comparisons were draw.
The Pens opened up the game as sluggish as ever, probably still stuffed on BBQ and grits. Turnovers left and right which forced much of the game to be played in the defensive zone. Matt Niskanen, who has had a great season thus far, left much to be desired. He had a brutal giveaway to Patrick Dwyer who was all alone in the slot. Luckily for the Pens, Marc-Andre Fleury came ready to go and was the only shining light. He had some killer saves with players like Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner in his face to keep the score tied.
As the period was winding down, Sidney Crosby sent a pass through the hash marks to Chris Kunitz who didn't hesitate or miss. But with 24 seconds left in the period, Alexander Semin (still weird he isn't a Capital) put a shot pass on net and Eric Staal, stick on the ice, had a perfect redirect that went by Fleury. Tough goal to give up with so little time left in the period.
Fleury started the second with some more magic, but it wasn't enough. E. Staal had a wrap-around attempt that Jiri Tlusty hit home. 2-1. Then the Pens blinked and Dwyer sent a pass from behind the net to a Skinner who went in unmatched. The two goals were almost two minutes apart. The Canes were just killing the Pens in their own zone., but the Pens hung on and started turning it around at the end of the period. That didn't last long. In a play eerily similar to Skinner's goal, Semin sent a pass from behind the goal line to Tlusty who was all alone in the slot. That was E. Staal's third point of the night.
The third period was more of the same. The Canes were everywhere and the Pens didn't seem to care, much to Fleury's delight. Game ended 4-1 in Carolina's favor, a great return present for Skinner, Jamie McBain, Tim Gleason, and Tim Brent.
Don't have my usual stack of factoids this time. Only two really mattered:
- Crosby's first shot of the game came with four minutes left in the third.
- Paul Martin, who took no shifts in the third, has a lower body injury. This could be really bad news.
The Pens just haven't been with it the last few games. No spark, no desire, no nothing but showing up at the game (and even that's questionable). They're used to dictating the games but now they're left with playing chase. Really painful to watch, but I refuse to get bent out of shape over a game against Carolina before we hit the halfway mark of the season. Don't get me wrong, the Pens need to change it around, but don't head for the bridges yet. Remember that the Pens have almost $9 million in cap space and we're a little over a month away from the trade deadline.
Hopefully we get Evgeni Malkin back soon and whatever is ailing Martin heals quickly.
Pens head to Montreal next to face ex-coach Michel Therrien. Can't wait for the "soff" jokes.