Trevor Daley returns from injury to replace the now-injured Brian Dumoulin. Matt Murray spells Marc-Andre Fleury otherwise lines and lineup are the same from last night's win in Jersey.
The boys are ready to go. pic.twitter.com/4uZ1fHgGOL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2016
The Hurricanes strike first, a nice play by Noah Hanifin to pinch into the zone and center a pass to Elias Lindholm who has plenty of space from in close to pick a spot and shoot the puck by Murray. 1-0 Carolina.
Not too much else going on, hey Pittsburgher Christina Aguilera is in the building to cheer on the champs
Surprised the Penguins got up to those 9 shots, didn't have much sustained pressure. And as Bob Errey pointed out in the telecast the Hurricanes were killing the Pens in faceoffs and seemed to have the puck an awful lot (at one point it was 11-3).
Wouldn't be a game without a Sidney Crosby goal, seemingly, so Sid does his part with his 26th of the year (26 seconds into the period, no less) on a pass from who else but the equally as hot Justin Schultz 1-1.
Carolina retakes the lead when Teuvo Teravainen dips his shoulder and goes by Daley, and Ian Cole, well I'm not really sure what he's doing to allow Lee Stempniak an easy lane right down the middle to put the rebound past Murray. 2-1.
Stempniak goal pic.twitter.com/imBfIKFwFA— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 29, 2016
Shots 27-17 after two periods in favor of Carolina. Shot attempts were even uglier 57-29. After 40 minutes the Pens are pretty lucky to be within one goal of a striking distance
A surprise: Marc-Andre Fleury takes over for Murray to start (more below)
The Pens shuffle lines a little, Carl Hagelin jumps up with Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz is (finally) bumped off Geno's line and down with Phil Kessel . The latter change pays off instantly with Kessel feeding Kunitz for his 1st goal since
the 8th grade picnic 16 games to tie it at 2.
That goal gives Kunitz 4 points (1G-3A) over his last 5 games. pic.twitter.com/8vShVGdwzC— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 29, 2016
Then the other switch pays off, Patric Hornqvist makes a diving shot block in his own end, eventually gets the puck in the offensive zone, patiently waits and feeds Hagelin for a one-timer that blows by Ward with 4 minutes left to give Pittsburgh a lead.
Pens hold on for the win
- Easy to see early why Bill Peters has Carolina doing well in stat categories like shots against, PK, overall Corsi. Clogging the middle with 4 skaters in the NZ, patiently staying true in shot lanes and a sound defensive structure. Doesn't make for excitingly fun hockey given the Penguins style of trying to score 10 goals a night, but can be effective since 2 points for a win count the same no matter the style.
- Ian Cole back to the locker-room early in the 2nd period. Well past the point of these defensive injuries being funny but luckily in this case Cole misses nary a shift and is able to return.
- Sticking with injuries, old friend Jordan Staal (no stranger to bizarre freak bad luck himself) took a skate to the face in the 1st period but thankfully was back out for the 2nd period seemingly no worse for wear.
- Daley did well to step back in the lineup when the team needed him but he was on ice for both of the first 2 goals against and didn't look very good on either of them. Tough to throw the guy too far under the bus since he's jumping back in a pinch but not his finest night. (Coaches seemed to notice too, Daley ended up with less ES TOI than Schultz, Cole and Ruhwedel).
- Scott Wilson earned a breakaway in the 2nd period but Cam Ward makes a nice leg-save after a pretty good deke by Wilson.
- No penalties called all game on either teams, a rarity these days. Carolina is the league's least penalized team on the season so that's not too surprising, the real miracle might be Pittsburgh not taking any penalties even when they were getting shelled early in the game.
- It will be interesting to see what they announce for Murray's removal. Daley did fall into Murray on the 2nd goal, but Murray didn't show any outward pain and his 23/25 shot/save performance was good. No news if he wasn't feeling well (perhaps like Olli Maatta) or something maybe non-injury related. Murray was able to sit on the bench for the remainder of the game.
- Penguins now are 7-7-1 when losing after 40 minutes. That's just absurd.
- Kudos to Fleury, one night after playing and presuming he'd be a spectator he had to come in cold and stopped all 19 shots he faced to give the team a chance to win, which they eventually will do unless they run out of time if their goalie stops pucks. He did and they did, thing of beauty.
Another win and a few days rest are in order before one more and a week break. The Pens weren't really all that sharp or looking interested in winning, but Murray played well in the 2nd and then Fleury played well in the 3rd and they found some goals and got the win.