The Pittsburgh Penguins never seemed to kick their game into gear tonight and couldn't quite catch up with a Carolina Hurricanes team that you would never tell just by watching this game has struggled this season.
The story of the game may have come early in it. Evgeni Malkin made a nice pass to Blake Comeau - the resurgent new-found top six winger who's been productive and coming off of a hat trick last game. Comeau has plenty of ice and time, dekes to his back-hand and had Cam Ward dead to rights. The same Cam Ward who has struggled mightily this season. Comeau had the whole net- less Ward's stick which he desperately held out. Comeau's shot hit the stick.
That set the tone. Shots in the first were 17-9 in favor of Carolina, a trend that would continue for the rest of the game. Jiri Tlusty struck deep into the first but the Pens matched it the next shift out when Sidney Crosby crashed to the net and at least helped screen out the goalie for an easy put back rebound goal past Ward. Elias Lindholm, who was defending against Crosby also helped create the traffic, which wasn't quite enough to call goaltender interference but certainly was close.
Early in the second the Canes again took the lead when Patrick Dwyer blew past a hapless Zach Sill (but then again, what other kind of Sill is there) and rocketed a shot over Marc-Andre Fleury 's shoulder to make it 2-1. The Pens would again respond and tie the game again when Patric Hornqvist received a Crosby pass and shot a laser of a bad angle shot from the outside of the circle to tie the game at 2.
Carolina would score the eventual game winner early in the third with a Nathan Gerbe goal on the power play (the first of 3 PP's for Carolina in the 3rd period). The Pens again frustrated could never quite get back on the right track and wouldn't be able to equal the score. Tlusty capped the scoring with a "power play" empty net goal with the Pens gunning for an equalizer.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Marcel Goc left the game after blocking a shot with his foot in the first period. Coach Mike Johnston said after the game that he thinks Goc will be OK going forward, but if he couldn't return, what are the odds his foot won't swell up and he'll be able to go tomorrow? Something to keep an eye on- the Pens only have 12 total forwards now, so if Goc can't go they'll need to call a player up tomorrow or they will be playing 11 forwards and dressing 7 defensemen (meaning scratch Robert Bortuzzo would get into the lineup).
- Down a man the Pens had to shuffle up some lines and they seemed to unite Crosby, Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin for a super line more often than not. Being as they were trailing the game for most of the 2nd and 3rd periods, it wasn't a bad idea. Crosby and Malkin had a weird ebb and flow of really great shifts, and then very low-key ones throughout the contest.
- The Pens only mustered 22 shots on goal for the night. A rather uninspiring effort. Also, take out Comeau and Hornqvist and the other 16 players on the team only got 12 shots on goal. 7 Pens were shot-less. Only 4 had more than 1 SOG (the aforementioned Comeau and Hornqvist plus Crosby and Brandon Sutter).
- Speaking of, Chris Kunitz made a really nice pass to Crosby to start the Hornqvist goal but then the rest of his stat-line is a big goose egg. 0 shots on goal, 0 of his shots blocked, 0 shots missed, 0 giveaways, 0 takeaways, 0 hits, 0 shots blocked, 0 faceoffs in 18:42 played. And, in the bigger pictures this is 0 goals in 11 games for Kunitz. It's nice to see Hornqvist blossom, but seemingly Kunitz has shrank into the background a little more.
- The Pens seemingly couldn't make good decisions with the puck all night long. Giveaways were officially 6-1 Pittsburgh. Could have added another dozen, really. Credit Carolina for some good transition play and just wanting to get to the pucks more.
Not a good outing, but good news is on the horizon- same two teams get at it tomorrow in Raleigh for some instant revenge. Hopefully it goes better than last weekend where the Pens again blew their chance to get back to the good.