Tracking the Storm: Analysis
-- The Carolina Hurricanes secured a point in the standings with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but as has been the case lately, that second point seems to be a bit elusive, despite a well-played match. Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe and Drayson Bowman scored for the Hurricanes, but it was the Penguins who were ultimately able to capitalize on their chances when they needed it the most. “We came out and had a really good, strong two periods. The difference was they capitalized on their chances, and we didn’t,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “When we get those opportunities and don’t get that extra goal, you’re going to let teams hang around. They hung around, they had a couple chances and they capitalized.”
-- The Hurricanes outshot the Penguins 26-16 in the first 40 minutes, including a 16-7 differential in the first period. And after two periods, the Canes had a 2-1 lead. Not being able to stretch that lead to at least 3-1 was ultimately the difference, as the Penguins came out desperate in the third period and capitalized. “We had our chances to maybe extend the lead, and we couldn’t do it. They kept battling and made some nice plays,” defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “They battled, they’re a good team and we couldn’t close it out.”
-- Pittsburgh was outshooting the Hurricanes 5-0 early in the third period, as they found the game-tying goal just 1:58 in. It would take nearly 14 minutes to make it 4-3, but the ice had tilted in favor of the visitors. “We’re a bit vulnerable in the third period,” forward Jordan Staal said. “Even when we’re up or down, we’re just getting a little antsy.”
-- That aside, the Canes were persistent with their game plan in the third period and eventually found the game-tying goal off the stick of Bowman, who had one of his better games as a Hurricane this season. He played nearly 15 minutes, registering three shots on goal and five shot attempts, a hit, a takeaway and his third goal of the season, a wraparound that found white ice beyond the goal line. “It would have been nice to get two points tonight, but getting the late goal was a big booster to get the one point,” goaltender Justin Peters said.
-- Another plus was the play of Jordan Staal’s line, which, as usual, drew the task of defending the opponent’s top line, which tonight included Sidney Crosby. Though Crosby notched a goal early in the second period, the line came out on the better side of the plus/minus battle, as they set up Sekera for his goal with 1.3 seconds left in the first period and Gerbe answered Crosby’s goal just 14 seconds later. “Jordan had a real solid game. He had a big responsibility with Crosby, and I thought he did a great job, right from that start,” Muller said. “I thought he had a real strong, powerful game tonight.”
-- Some odds and ends: Sekera leads Canes defensemen in goals (7) and points (20). … With a goal and an assist, Gerbe recorded a two-point night, his second multi-point effort of the season (Nov. 12 vs. COL, 2a). He has three points (1g, 2a) in his last two games, and he has scored a goal in each of his three games vs. PIT this season. … Bowman last scored on Nov. 15 vs. ANA. … The Canes are just 2-9 in overtime this season.
-- The Canes fall to 14-15-9 on the season, but the all-important point brings them to just a point back of a playoff spot in the log-jammed Metropolitan Division; below Pittsburgh and Washington, four teams are slotted ahead of the Canes, each with 38 points, and Philadelphia owns the division’s third and final playoff spot. The Hurricanes will close out 2013 in Toronto on Sunday and versus Montreal in Raleigh on New Year’s Eve. “Starting the third, you can’t be afraid to have the lead and play,” Muller said of the learning process. “You have to keep playing like the first two periods. You can’t sit back. That’s what we’ve tried to emphasize.”
James Neal scored 1:03 into overtime to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
Neal, who had been denied on two superb chances earlier in the game, fed Jussi Jokinen on a 2-on-2 rush, slipped between the defensemen to take a return pass, and ripped a wrist shot from the slot past Justin Peters for his 11th goal of the season.
Deryk Engelland, returning after serving a five-game suspension, gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead when his slap shot from just above the right circle trickled past Peters into the net at 13:15 of the third period. But Drayson Bowman tied the game with 2:29 remaining in regulation when his wraparound deflected off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury into the net.
The victory was the eighth in nine games for the Penguins (28-11-1), who lead the Eastern Conference with 57 points and are running away with the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. Carolina (14-15-9) fell to 0-2-2 in its past four games.
The Hurricanes carried the play for most of the first period, outshooting Pittsburgh 16-7, but needed almost all of the first 20 minutes to get the first goal.
With time running down, Sekera moved way down from the left point, took a passout from Jordan Staal, and whipped a backhand from the slot under Fleury's arm 1.3 seconds before intermission for his seventh goal of the season. It came a minute after the Penguins had an apparent goal waved off because the referee was in the process of blowing the play dead before the puck crossed the goal line during a scramble.
Each team scored in the first 30 seconds of the second period.
Crosby tied it 16 seconds after the faceoff. Olli Maatta kept the puck in at the left point and got the puck to Neal. He fed Crosby, whose backhand from the lower right circle beat Peters. It was Crosby's 21st goal and NHL-high 55th point.
The Hurricanes needed 14 seconds to regain the lead. Alexander Semin cut off a clearing attempt along the right half-wall in Pittsburgh's zone and fired the puck toward the net. Fleury made the save, but Gerbe found the loose puck in the crease and slipped it home for his eighth of the season and a 2-1 lead.
Peters made the best save of the game to that point with 4:24 left in the period by denying Neal's wide-open one-timer from the slot off a pass by Crosby.
Pittsburgh got even again 1:58 into the third period. Conner took Jokinen's breakout pass, made an inside move to get inside of defenseman Ryan Murphy, and got Peters to open up enough to slide a backhand through the five-hole for his fourth of the season.
Peters preserved the tie three minutes later when he robbed Neal from the slot again, this time after a Carolina turnover.