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Pens/Canes Recap: Cam Ward's great night haunts Pens

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The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn't beat Cam Ward, and didn't play good enough defense on their own, dropping a 5-2 game to the Carolina Hurricanes.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

To sum it up in a sentence: the Carolina Hurricanes dropped the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 tonight thanks in large part to their goaltender Cam Ward throwing out one hell of a performance.

You can read 1,000 more words but it won't put Ward's performance into a better perspective than that. First period shots were 14-7 for Pittsburgh, but at the end of the stanza the score was 2-1 Carolina. This was all Ward- the Pens had several terrific scoring chances but only Brandon Sutter scored to open the game.

From there it was all Carolina and Ward.

Eric Staal struck first after Jordan Staal stole a Pens defensive pass. Ryan Murphy gave the Canes the lead following a nice pass from Brad Malone that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury.

The second period, unfortunately, saw more of the same. Ward turned back all of the Pens best chances. The Canes made theirs count, like Jay McClement pushing a shot past Derrick Pouliot and inside of Fleury's post to make it 3-1. The real back-breaker came shortly there after with a series of good passes that found Alex Semin all alone in front of the net. 4-1 and from there it was all academic.

Andrej  Nestrasil scored on the power play deep into the 3rd to make it 5-1. Ian Cole would score his first goal as a Penguin with a nice high shot with some traffic in front, but by then it was too little way too late.

The short-handed Pens - who had 1 less forward than usual courtesy of injuries and the salary cap just couldn't find a way to come back.

  • Sidney Crosby wasn't the problem though. He had a great assist on the Sutter goal, a play he started by intercepting a Jordan Staal attempted pass out of the zone and also set up 3 other prime scoring chances. All of them Ward was better than the shooter.
  • One of those such shots was David Perron, from a knee, lifting a Crosby pass glove side on Ward. It was a great shot considering the circumstances. But there was an equally better save.
  • Kris Letang had another point blank chance off a great pass from Daniel Winnik. Winnik (who has 22 assists total this season between Toronto and Pittsburgh) seems to setup a great play like this once a game- great instincts and puck placement but Ward challenged the shot well and Letang didn't have a ton to shoot at. Winnik also had 26 assists last year in Anaheim, suggesting that he can and will be dishing more to come.
  • Pouliot looked bad on the McClement goal, and got caught in a center drive which opened room for another goal. Defensively he's not looking like a player that's going to be reliable in the playoffs. But with Olli Maatta out for the year, and Christian Ehrhoff unable to get healthy, what other choice is there?
  • The less said about Chris Kunitz, the better. Ditto Blake Comeau who missed the net wide, with the puck going the other way on a 4-on-2 break that ended up in the net. With only 11 forwards, the Pens probably weren't going to win unless their better wingers played well and it wasn't the case. Even Perron, absent his glorious scoring chance wasn't all that visible.
  • Beau Bennett doubled his ice-time from last game and had a more visible game with 4 shot attempts (only 1 on net, though), 3 hits and 3 takeaways. Sadly though, his game isn't in a good place and he's not making enough plays. Or playing with skilled enough players to make it matter. It's a real failure for him personally and for the position the coaches are putting him in that this potentially valuable player isn't contributing much of anything.
  • Speaking of a guy who hasn't contributed much, Maxim Lapierre might have flashed his one burst of skill in a Penguin uniform when he dragged a puck around Justin Faulk but his shot went just wide of the net early in the game. That could have changed the course of the game. Could have, but didn't.
  • Much like everyone else, Fleury had an uneven night. The first goal of the game beat his glove low when he was preparing for a higher shot. The second goal beat his glove high when he was looking for a lower shot. He seemed off his angle on the third goal, but it was a great shot and the defenseman probably should have been able to stick-on-puck it away.. The fourth was the result of nice puck movement by the Canes and on the 5th, Rob Scuderi gave the net front guy way too much room. You can't really blame Fleury, but when the other guy is making all the stops, it only highlights it further.
  • About all the Pens can hope for is that Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist are healthy and effective ASAP. Getting back 2 talented players like that, particularly Malkin could break games like these open when it was close.

So there's that. The Pens move on and look at 2 weekend games, hoping to have a full lineup and better results. They won't see a goalie any better than Ward was tonight, which is a little encouraging, but still doesn't help matters at this point.