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Penguins vs. Hurricanes Recap: Fourth line and depth comes through for Pittsburgh in crucial win

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Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson both score in the first period and the Pens never look back, beating Carolina 3-1 in a huge game.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

It’s no surprise that the Penguins stick with the same group as last time. What is a bit of a surprise is that coach Mike Sullivan mixes some personnel on the middle-lines of his forwards.

First period

Some good old fashioned hard work get the Pens on the board first. And it comes from the fourth line. Nice job by Matt Cullen to get the puck to the net, and even nicer for Garrett Wilson to make a second, third, fourth effort to get just his second NHL goal of the season.

The Hurricanes would challenge for goalie interference, but after a pretty lengthy review it’s determined by the officials to be a good goal.

Just before the end of the period, the Pens strike again and again it’s the fourth line. Adam Johnson makes a really nice indirect pass off the boards to create a 2-on-1 for Cullen. The league’s oldest player makes a savvy play to look off the shot until the last second and unleashes a nice wrister past Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney to make it 2-0.

Late in the period, Carolina captain Justin Williams can tell his team is flat, so he tries to muck it up after a whistle. No one has forgotten that Williams has never beaten the Pens in a Game Seven.

Second period

The Pens start the period on a carryover power play but can’t get anything going. Jake Guentzel bumps Calvin de Haan weakly, who then slides into the boards, and the Canes’ defenseman leaves the game for good with an injury. Looked more unfortunate than anything.

Olli Maatta gets the gate for boarding at 5:53 but Matt Murray and the Pens’ PK holds strong.

Carolina turns it on a bit as the period ends with a ton more shots, but Murray is up for them.

Third period

First minute in and Patric Hornqvist ends his long even strength goal drought. Nice setup from his left winger in Dominik Simon to drop it back and the Swede hammers it past McElhinney. Ironically Simon and Hornqvist were split to start the game but make it count here.

Later on the Pens are basically on cruise control until Jack Johnson takes his fourth minor in the last six games with a cross-check call.

Carolina gets on the board, with serious traffic in front of Murray in the form of Jordan Staal and a couple of Pens, so Jaccob Slavin unleashes a shot from the point that finds its way in. 3-1.

Late in the game a couple of minors are called coincidentally with the Carolina goalie pulled, but nothing comes of it.

Huge win for Pittsburgh in this one.

Some Thoughts

  • The Pens got to rest yesterday in Pittsburgh and wait for Carolina (who played in NC beating the Flyers). Definitely looked like that early, with the Pens starting fast. The Canes also started slow - they average 34+ shots/game this season, only had 9 by the mid-way point of this game. They ended up with 38 shots.
  • And starting fast isn’t something Pittsburgh has often done- per Bob Grove they hadn’t scored in the first period at home in the last four games before today.
  • Great to see the fourth line chip in too, as they’ve been too quiet as of late. Many are wondering if Wilson can or will stay in the lineup for the playoffs - he probably will because of effort plays like the one that got his goal.
  • And nice for A. Johnson to record his first two career NHL points today, in his fifth game. Hasn’t had a ton of opportunities or icetime but good to see him get on the board nonetheless.
  • How about Matt Murray? Another start his 17th in the last 18 games (his playoffs basically began back in late-February). Stopped 37/38 and had to be really strong in the second half of that game when Carolina was throwing a lot at the net.
  • You also know it’s almost playoff time when the big centers come out. Sidney Crosby took 32 of the 72 faceoffs in this game (44.4%). And he was big, winning 66% of them too.
  • 2 shots on goal (and 4 total shot attempts) for Phil Kessel who only played 11:18 at ES (and 13:11 overall). He’s just not really a focal point of the team right now, and in a game where the Pens only got one power play that just adds up to not having any sort of impact on this contest. Is that problematic? Perhaps. Gotta hope at this point that when Evgeni Malkin gets back he can help bring Phil with him.

Huge win for the Pens to inch further towards the playoffs and away from the wild card as well, a place now that Carolina might be destined for. All the fun of late season hockey, when you come out on the winning end, at least.