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Recap: Carolina, Jordan Staal find a way to stymie Penguins yet again

The Pens lose their third game of the season to the Carolina Hurricanes. Tonight’s OT loss had a lot of familiar threads from the previous PIT/CAR games of the season

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images


Pittsburgh’s fourth line shuffle continues, this game with Ryan Poehling unavailable and Drew O’Connor stepping back into the NHL lineup.

Carolina’s lineup is less than ideal from their perspective, Sebastien Aho isn’t quite ready to return from injury. Brady Skjei is out for personal reasons and backup Antti Raanta is in net.

First period

Very tight checking contest early, it takes 10 minutes for Carolina to get a shot on goal and the Penguins only have a select handful themselves.

The game opens up late in the first when defender Jalen Chatfield cross-checks Sidney Crosby for the game’s first power play. Crosby makes the Canes pay by finding a loose puck and scoring from in front of the net on the power play to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.

The lead only lasts 15 seconds, Carolina seems to wake up. Andrei Svechnikov gets the puck off the wall and then some quick passing leads to a long point shot that misses the net wide. But it kicks off the boards right to Martin Necas who flips it in past Tristan Jarry and suddenly the game is tied at 1-1.

If that wasn’t enough, just 17 seconds later Carolina did one better and took the lead on another shockingly quick goal. Jesper Kotkaniemi wins a faceoff cleanly against Evgeni Malkin and it pops back to Chatfield. Chatfield fires from distance and Jarry doesn’t track it well through the traffic. The puck has eyes and finds the back of the net. 2-1 Carolina for a game that was 0-0 just 33 seconds earlier.

Brian Dumoulin heads to the penalty box for Carolina’s first power play but they can’t get even more goals at this point.

Shots are only 9-8 Pittsburgh. For the longest time there was nothing going on, and then almost out of no where, everything was happening.

Second period

The second period was filled with eight minor penalties (five by Pittsburgh, three by Carolina), several of them seeming to be makeup calls about a minute into the other team’s power play. So that was fun.

Despite all the special teams time for each team, no one is able to score until the final minute of the period. With the Pens killing a Jason Zucker goalie interference penalty, the Hurricanes finally slip and make an uncharacteristic mistake.

They have two defensemen on the ice for their power play, but you will only see two forwards in Seth Jarvis and Kotkaniemi in this video below. That leads to big problems for them when Teddy Blueger skates right through Jarvis. Raanta stops Blueger’s attempt but Brock McGinn is there to follow up the shot, and Kotkaniemi is not able to offer much defending. Pittsburgh’s short handed goal ties the game at 2 late in the second.

Shots in the second are 11-6 in favor of Carolina, who also had a large advantage in power play time this period as well.

Third period

The teams trade some chances, Kris Letang sends Jarvis to the locker-room after tripping him into the net. But since it is the third period and all, the refs forget where the whistles were on that one and the teams play on.

Zucker spins around a defender and has a nifty chance from in tight but can’t beat Raanta.

But Bryan Rust can. With 7:05, the Pens take a 3-2 lead on Rust’s efforts. Brent Burns pinches down the wall, but the Pens get the puck by him and attack. Carolina has numbers back (because, of course they do) with Rust going almost 1-on-2. But the defender in front of him is again a forward, and the Canes don’t switch off, so Rust uses his speed to beat Jordan Martinook wide, and before Jaccob Slavin can get over to disrupt, Rust has already jetted in and scored on Raanta.

Jordan Staal has some character too, and finds a game-tying goal. Staal skates by Blueger and wraps the puck into the net with his long reach before Dumoulin can get over to help shut it down. 3-3 game with 4:26 left with another late-game goal against the Pens by the Carolina captain.

That sends proceedings to overtime.


It doesn’t stay there long though. Carolina makes a few bang-bang passes as they come up the ice with speed, and Jaccob Slavin makes it look easy as he cuts to the net on his forehand and tucks in the game-winner past a sprawling Jarry just 23 seconds into extra time.

Some thoughts

  • Early on, the Pens scored on the power play and added a short handed goal. They also killed all five Carolina power plays. Tremendous special teams play for Pittsburgh in this game. (Of course, flip side of the coin is the Hurricanes had a 3-1 edge in scoring 5-on-5 play).
  • Nice to see a vintage Rust goal, scoring off the rush, using his edges to cut into the net. Very impressive stuff. Feels like it’s been a long while since he’s been finding those types of opportunities with regularity.
  • Ho hum, another game, another Sidney Crosby goal. The captain is up to 19 on the season (which translates to a 47-goal full season pace). Just looks automatic and expected for him right now to go to the net, find puck, bury puck.
  • Thought Jarry was only OK when recently he’s been playing to so much higher of a level, but Carolina showed how they can really test a goalie. The Necas first goal was immediately following a shot wide off the endboards, totally changed the angle by kicking out to the other side. The Staal third period goal was basically the same, a shot wide, that Staal corralled and took to the other side of the ice himself. Could Jarry have done better on the long range goal by Chatfield that snuck in short-side? Maybe. Tough to expect perfection, though on a night where the goalie saw 35 shots in regulation and then totally hung out to dry by OT.
  • Pens down to a 0-1-2 record against Carolina on the year. Blah. All coming in one goal games. Carolina is a tough out now — on a seven-game winning streak and with points in 13 straight and the NHL’s best record in one-goal games. The Pens just haven’t found a way to get over the hump against them, despite being tantalizingly close to doing so.
  • In a close game against a talented team, O’Connor wasn’t destined going to get a lot of ice time coming into this game but coach Mike Sullivan probably wasn’t thrilled with his first period penalty. O’Connor only played one shift in the second period (where he had to have a shift, by virtue of being turned loose from the penalty box) for 0:17. Then O’Connor played one shift in the third period for 52 seconds. And that was it for his evening.
  • Both this game and last Sunday’s recent CAR/PIT game saw McGinn score a big goal for the Penguins...Only for Staal to score a third period goal for the Hurricanes. They say history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes and there was a big sense of deja vu with the way all of the Penguin/Hurricane games have played out this season.

It’s a less than satisfying way to get to the brief holiday break, but the Pens will have to take the point and move on. Hopefully a few days away will help them clear the minds and get ready, because next week they still have to play a stretch of three-games-in-four-days before getting to the outdoor Winter Classic in Boston.

Fortunately the Hurricanes will be kept away from the Penguins for a few weeks before these teams meet later in January for the fourth and final time of the season. The Pens will no doubt be hoping if that game is to follow what has been the familiar script that perhaps it could at least have a different ending for once this season.