The Penguins stick with their same lineup from last game’s win over Minnesota, including in net where Alex Nedeljkovic gets the chance to start again.
The visiting Carolina Hurricanes are going with this group.
Tight, tight, tight early on, not much space for either team to operate. Shots are 2-2 at the first TV timeout, the most dangerous shot is one Rickard Rakell sneaks through the goalie...but it hits the post and stays out as the elusive first goal of the season continues to tease Rakell.
Rakell makes up for it by setting up a flash goal almost out of no where. Sidney Crosby gets to work on the forecheck to force Carolina to go up the wall. Jake Guentzel is there to win the puck back and bump it to the middle for Rakell. Rakell makes a fancy spinning backhand pass to the net that Crosby deflects in. 1-0 Pens
The teams trade power plays, but both penalty kills are there to do their jobs.
Only nine total shots in the first period, 5-4 in favor of Pittsburgh in a very structured opening 20 minutes. Nice job by Crosby and Noel Acciari defensively to break up passes, block shots and disrupt the Canes’ attempts.
The structured play continues, with the Hurricanes seeming to figure out and wear on the Penguins a little by taking the first three shots of the period in the opening five minutes. But Stefan Noesen opens the door for a change when he trips John Ludvig in the Carolina offensive zone to yield the second Pittsburgh power play of the night. Not much going with it.
The Pens get another chance when Jack Drury has to hold Crosby back. They get a few looks with shots by Crosby and Guentzel, but no dice.
Carolina gets back to their pressure and puck control game, pinning the Pens in the zone for the longest time and they finally get the puck into the net. Teuvo Teravainen’s rebound bounces around off Kris Letang and slowly slides into the net. 1-1 game.
Take 'em any way you can get 'em ♂️ pic.twitter.com/M3yxMRwvZB— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) December 22, 2023
Guentzel gets a punch to the face for a fourth Pittsburgh power play but rinse and repeat with the others.
Shots are 12-10 Hurricanes in the second period, and they found the tying goal along the way.
Competitive third with both teams pushing for the all-important late go-ahead goal that would likely tip the balance in their favor. With five minutes to go, Erik Karlsson got penalized for a hold while jostling on the rush for the refs to send the Canes to their second power play of the night.
Pittsburgh’s PK holds strong, punctuated at the end by Alex Nedeljkovic reading the play and moving laterally to square up on a Martin Necas long one timer from the left.
The Pens look good in the final few minutes, enough for Carolina to burn their timeout with 36 seconds to go to regroup for a defensive zone faceoff. It works to perfection, they win the draw are cleanly out of the zone and halt the Pittsburgh push in its tracks.
Exciting OT, Rakell and Evgeni Malkin team up with Kris Letang to nearly win the game for Pittsburgh, followed up by a shift with Crosby, Guentzel and Karlsson doing the same.
Andrei Svechnikov gets tangled up after a couple of other instances and the refs call hm.
The Pens use their timeout with 1:14 to go to get rest and a reset for their top players. 4v3 for the rest of the way. Crosby hits the cross-bar with a cracker of a shot, but it isn’t to be.
Rakell gets the starting job, he flubs totally on his deke and the puck dribbles into the goalie.
Stefan Noesen is Carolina’s shootout leadoff man, he tries a half slapper from in tight, Nedeljkovic stops him.
Crosby is up for the Pens, he snaps a wrist shot off the inside of the top corner and in. 1-0 Pens.
Svechnikov goes next, his shot attempt goes wide.
Letang with the game on his stick but his patented backhand move can’t elevate enough to get in.
Teravainen in do or die mode, and Nedeljkovic stays with his backhand shot all the way. Pens win
- The Carolina PK was 28/29 in December coming into tonight, and that form was on full display again. The Pens’ power play ran into that wall and didn’t have any answers for it.
- The Hurricane moniker is a fitting one for Carolina’s hockey team. You have to weather them like a storm. They are relentless in their pursuit, aggressive to pressure even the most simple of outlets of neutral zone carries, quick to steal a puck back and push it the other way. They don’t give up much of anything against by way of shots or chances and every bit has to be earned. It’s a grind to compete against such a well oiled machine of a team.
- To that end, though the Canes had defeated the Pens five-straight times coming into tonight, as Josh Getzoff pointed out on the broadcast, each game was decided by one goal (besides the two-goal win in November iced by a last minute empty net goal). Everything between the teams when they play is about as tight as it can be, and this game that went the distance was no different. Nice of the Pens to secure the extra point in the shootout and maybe more importantly get that Carolina losing streak off the books.
- The Pens got four out of the five penalties in their favor in regulation, and knowing that Carolina figured out the refs probably weren’t going to make that imbalance any bigger. Michael Bunting suckering Marcus Pettersson at the end of the second period was an example of that, but from players water-skiing on Malkin in the third to all sorts of interfering it.
- Which is to say, if a Carolina player did to a Penguin what little Karlsson did with five minutes to go (where no scoring chance was created or denied and puck possession wasn’t even affected), it wouldn’t have likely been called. Standard NHL officiating game management, but if you point one finger at that you’ve got three more fingers pointing back at you with the 0/4 Pens’ power play not taking advantage of their calls.
- Really quality game by Nedeljkovic to stop 23/24, the only one that eluded him a bad bounce off a teammate that gave him no chance. Add in some stellar shootout play and it was a wonderful performance in net.
- For all the Pens’ faults and flaws, they still have Sidney Crosby and sometimes that’s enough right there. It was tonight.
Now winners in four of the last five, the Penguins head up to Ottawa for their final game before Christmas and head into the break carrying their momentum.