Although he had 34 saves, Marc-Andre Fleury did not get a win for his birthday as the Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the Carolina Hurricanes at CONSOL Energy Center by a final score of 4-2.
The first period was anticlimactic. The Hurricanes scored first; Jiri Tlusty deflected the puck off of Olli Maatta’s skate to sink it in the net behind Fleury with 4:13 left to play in the first, but Kris Letang leveled the score at 1-1 less than 45 seconds later, grabbing an easy rebound goal against Carolina netminder Cam Ward.
A puck off of the foot sent forward Marcel Goc to the bench midway through the first period, but head coach Mike Johnston said that, “we don’t think it’s anything concerning, but we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
The Canes opened the second period quickly after Patrick Dwyer hit the back of the net 2:54 seconds after the puck dropped. The Penguins tied the game 13 minutes later when Crosby acrobatically accepted a between the legs pass and sailed it to teammate Patric Hornqvist for the second equalizer of the game.
That goal was Hornqvist’s seventh in eight games, and the assist gave Crosby his thirty-third point, giving him a three-point lead over Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek.
The third period quickly saw Crosby in the penalty box for goaltender interference. The Pens’ usually stellar penalty kill unit let Nathan Gerbe slip through and score the first powerplay goal of the night to give the Canes a 3-2 lead with 16:50 left to play.
The Penguins took another penalty that sent Christian Ehrhoff to the box for tripping. The penalty kill unit held off the Canes on this one, but the team was ultimately unable to convert any of their shots, despite Johnston unleashing the newly minted “Three-Headed Monster” line of Crosby, Hornqvist, and Evgeni Malkin.
With 59.8 seconds left in regulation, Maatta took a tripping penalty to leave the Pens shorthanded for the rest of the game. Fleury left the net to even the ice, but Tlusty scored his second of the evening on the open net for a final score of 4-2.
The Canes outshot the Penguins 22-35, capitalizing on Pittsburgh’s lack of effort.
When asked what can be improved on in the next game, Crosby’s answer was quick: “Our work ethic. I think they just outworked us, and it’s not fun saying that after a game. I think that’s something that can’t happen.”
Letang didn’t hesitate to back up his captain’s sentiment. When posed with the same question, he answered, “Everything. There was no effort. They outworked and outbattled us.”
The Pens will get the chance to prove themselves on Saturday night as they finish up a home-and-home series against the Hurricanes.
Photo Credit: ESPN