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Recap: Co-cane Carolina, How Did I Get Hooked On You? Pens Hold On For 4-2 Win

The Penguins hold on and salt away a 4-2 win over the division leading Carolina Hurricanes

NHL: MAR 13 Hurricanes at Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins unveiled a unique lineup today against the Carolina Hurricanes. They had to replace Brock McGinn, who was injured on Friday night. They also welcomed back Brian Dumoulin from an illness that kept him out last game, but kept the Mike Matheson-Kris Letang pair intact. Kasperi Kapanen found himself out of the dog house and back in the lineup, and with an excess of right wings, Valterri Puustinen was returned to Wilkes-Barre and Radim Zohorna got into his first NHL game since February 10th.

At the tail end of a rather chess-like first period, Brian Boyle got Pittsburgh on the board. Teddy Blueger got the puck behind the net and lookin’ like Gretzky made a wonderful pass out to Boyle, who coolly finished his chance on Antti Raanta.

Evan Rodrigues, looking to break out of his scoring slump after getting an empty netter on Friday, nearly scored on a wrap-around in the second. The league initiated a review just to make sure the puck stayed over the line and there was no video evidence that it made it all the way over but it was very close.

Not long after that, the Pens followed up on that chance by definitively scoring when Danton Heinen deflected in a Mike Matheson shot from the point to extend the Pens lead to 2-0.

The penalty kills went toe-to-toe in this game, with Carolina’s skaters primarily doing all the heavy lifting. For Pittsburgh, it was largely Tristan Jarry, who has continued his run of excellent play in this sequence to keep the puck out of the net.

4:40 into the third, Carolina wore down the Malkin line and caught the Pittsburgh third pair out with them for an icing and a lot of control time. Eventually with a tired group ground down, Brett Pesce fired past Jarry to make it 2-1.

Carolina kept pouring it on from everywhere, content to shoot any time they had a look at the net but Jarry stood tall from there. With shots 16-3 in the third, the Hurricanes pulled Raanta with two minutes remaining and Sidney Crosby drilled an empty netter from about 180 feet away to extend the lead to 3-1 with 1:39 left.

Carolina didn’t go away or concede the loss, they used their timeout when getting an offensive zone draw and it paid off with Sebasian Aho circling the net and finding a loose puck and finishing near the net. 3-2 game with still 1:23 to go.

The Pens with-held the, err, storm though, and Zach Aston-Reese jumped on a mis-played puck for another empty netter with 11 seconds left to finalize the score as a 4-2 Pittsburgh win.

Some thoughts

  • This was the third game in a row where the Penguins were at home, facing a team that played the prior day on the road and traveled to Pittsburgh. Gotta take advantage of the scheduling advantages when they pop up favorably.
  • Carolina’s penalty kill came into the day in first in the NHL at 89.2% and they’ll leave a bit higher after going 3/3 against the Pens’ power play. That Hurricane group is seriously impressive. The Pens looked disjointed and bad, but a lot of the reason for that was the crew on the other side. They’re in top form right now.
  • Malkin didn’t get a point on the Heinen deflection goal, but his part in the sequence created the whole opportunity. That was one example of a very active and positive game for Malkin.
  • In fact, the Pens might be onto something with the whole Heinen-Malkin-Rodrigues line. They were probably the most consistently visible and dangerous line of the game for Pittsburgh.
  • The matchups in this game were interesting, the Pens were able to get the Malkin line out against Sebastian Aho (and away from Jordan Staal) a lot more than the previous games between these two teams. That likely plays heavily into the point about about why Malkin and company had their best game against Carolina.
  • Raanta has played a lot for Carolina lately (and played very well), with starter Frederik Andersen making a return from injury and playing in the Hurricanes’ win over Philadelphia yesterday. Given the circumstance, it’s understandable, but it’s also a weird little wrinkle that Andersen didn’t play against Pittsburgh in any of the three PIT/CAR games this season.
  • Mark Friedman stayed in the lineup today with Pettersson taking a game off, and one reason why could have been on display in the first period. Friedman drew two penalties, and he was active in that regard in the prior game with his fight against Vincent Trocheck. Surely a small reason, but Friedman being able to get under the skin of opponents (his 11 penalties drawn this season tied Sidney Crosby for the team lead, and Friedman has only played 19 games) is a nice little positive bonus.
  • The Pens went into a shell big time in the third, they had basically no push with the puck and were just looking to clear and hang on. That relied heavily on Jarry to be great. Fortunately for them, he was.
  • Pittsburgh/Carolina is always very tactical game, faceoff importance is heightened as we saw in this one with the Pens often getting trapped in their own end and chasing the puck a lot if the Canes got possession. It happened a lot, especially in the third. This was a good game for players like Boyle and Blueger to play well in. And nice for Aston-Reese to get only his second goal of the season. Don’t let him get hot!
  • The book closes with Pittsburgh going 1-1-1 and taking three points against the Canes in the season series. For their part, Carolina leaves with a 2-1-0 record and gets the extra point. Feels about right, two closely matched teams and especially by virtue of the first matchup a couple weeks ago, Carolina gets just a little bit more out of it. They leave Pittsburgh a fairly commanding six points up on the Pens, with a game in hand as well.

The Pens get ready to go out on the road next week and at 3-1-1 this month against excessively tough competition have to be feeling pretty good about where they are at right now in terms of getting results.