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Penguins/Hurricanes Recap: Pens grind out a win in Guentzel’s return to Pittsburgh

The Pens hang tough and claw out a 4-1 win over Carolina

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Pregame

It’s about that time heading down the stretch to see as many new faces as possible. Sam Poulin is up from Wilkes for the first time this year now that Noel Acciari has been iced away on LTIR. Jonathan Gruden continues his never-ending yo-yo from NHL-AHL by getting back in the NHL lineup at the expense of Emil Bemstrom. Ryan Graves is back, which bumps John Ludvig and means a jersey for Jack St. Ivany.

The Carolina Hurricanes come into town boasting a familiar name at the top of their left wings.

First period

A scoreless first passes by, Jake Guentzel’s welcome back video is more exciting than watching the Penguins’ inept power play get two cracks at Carolina’s second ranked PK.

Shots are 9-8 in favor of the ‘Canes through 20.

Second period

Graves uses his new dad strength to shove Andrei Svechnikov off the puck and make a center lane drive (it’s not the typical goal, but it’s something..). Jesse Puljujarvi takes advantage of the extra space to fire in a shot from the right side. 1-0 Pens to open the scoring.

Carolina is able to answer later on. Marcus Pettersson goes down in a heap (luckily seeming to avoid an injury to his arm) and the Pens’ structure breaks down in their own end. The puck pops out to the other side to Dmitri Orlov and he fires a hard shot in. 1-1 game.

Pittsburgh gets their lead back late. Sidney Crosby wins an offensive zone draw clean and Bryan Rust was lined up on the left to take advantage of his right hand shot seeing a lot of net from that side of the ice. 2-1 to put the Pens back in front.

Pretty choppy period where Carolina had the puck for much of it. It was difficult for the Penguins to generate a lot of opportunities to put shots on goal, they only had five in the period but two went in.

Third period

Jonathan Gruden drilled a Hurricane cleanly and that angered Stefan Noesen for a quick fight.

Evgeni Malkin off to the box when Brady Skjei leaned back and fell down in the corner gives Carolina another crack on the power play, but the Penguins kill it off.

Carolina pulls the goalie somewhat early with 2:45 to play and them piling on the offense anyways. Drew O’Connor gets on his horse and races down a loose puck to put away in the empty net. 3-1.

The Hurricanes leave the goalie out, ‘cuz hey, why not. Crosby takes advantage of the gift to put his 35th goal of the year into the unguarded cage. 4-1.

Some thoughts

  • Puljujarvi is showing more signs of life than he ever has before as a Penguin, now with a goal in the last two games. Modest start but after being a presumably healthy scratch for much of the month it’s nice for him to get some traction and start to become an automatic part of the lineup down the stretch.
  • Another great sign for Puljujarvi: in crunch time in the third period he took Puustinen’s place on the third line and was throwing his body around in the defensive zone. Shows he’s gaining some trust, and not only that but stepping up in the extra looks too.
  • It always sucks to see anyone get hurt and for the world it looked like Pettersson suffered some kind of injury in his fall arm first into an opponent. Luckily he shook it off and kept playing, at this point in the year it’s unnecessary and sad to see injuries pile up, but thankfully it looks like that wasn’t the case here.
  • Thought Rickard Rakell rebounded with a nice finish to the game in the third period, but he was standing out as playing terribly early on. Was going over the line needlessly to cause power play offsides, having trouble controlling the puck and receiving passes, looked like he was fighting the game big time early on.
  • Crosby got three points, which at this case is on of the best parts of tuning in for the year to watch his trek towards tying the Wayne Gretzky point/game in every season stat. Crosby’s up to 76 points in 71 games. Between tonight and that four point game in Colorado is coming in clutch to keep him in great shape for it at this point.
  • For only being NHL game no. 3, it was a quietly nice night from John St. Ivany. The comparison isn’t completely parallel since he’s lankier and a right shot, but St. Ivany has some Rob Scuderi in his game in the defensive zone when it comes to using his stick to break up plays and general awareness around the puck. It’s early yet but there’s a certain no-frills type steadiness there, time will tell if the consistency is too.
  • Poulin’s first game of the season was OK. He played 9:11 from the fourth line, no shot attempts, one hit and two blocked shots. Did lose all but one of eight faceoffs that he took, which will be interesting to see if his path in the NHL remains as a center in the longer term.
  • Guentzel and the Canes’ first line in general were dangerous but absent from the scoring sheet. Jake had 6 SOG (and 9 total attempts) in his return to Pittsburgh and a couple of really nice setups too.
  • Carolina always keeps the goalie busy with their high-intensity pressure game and volume shooting. Nedeljkovic had a great night making 39 saves. He had to battle for it, even using his head to make a stop in the late-game scramble.

It’s a shame at this point this win doesn’t mean anything, quality game for the Pens to hang right in there with a quality team, not have any costly breakdowns or mistakes and pull out the victory. Too little, too late by now but this game should help build the confidence as they gear up for a home-and-home with Columbus coming up.