Game Analysis: Hurricanes At Penguins

The Carolina Hurricanes played another solid road game Tuesday, taking the Pittsburgh Penguins to overtime before losing in the shootout, 2-1. Jamie McBain scored for Carolina and Cam Ward matched a season high with 40 saves.

The Hurricanes are now 3-3-2 since the calendar flipped to 2012, but outside of a 5-2 loss to Nashville, Carolina's other losses — in regulation or overtime/shootout — were by just one goal. The Canes are in a three-way tie for last in the Eastern Conference with 40 points and have a 16-24-8 record.

Three Observations

1. You'd be hard-pressed to find two better fights than the tilts between Tim Gleason and Deryk Engelland, and Tim Brent and Joe Vitale. Both bouts were spirited and came about naturally, rather than being orchestrated, and showed why fighting is still relevant in the game.

2. The Canes defense continues to score, with McBain getting Carolina's lone goal on the night. The group now has 21 goals on the year. Eight of those have come from the combined efforts of the 23-year-old McBain and the even younger Justin Faulk, while Jay Harrison has seven at a bargain price. The offensive output — which is being accomplished even without the injured Joni Pitkanen — shows that Carolina's blueline scoring is in good hands, especially with even more talent on the horizon.

3. It's hard to point a direct finger, but the decision to allow Jeff Skinner to return to the game was a poor one. You can't blame Skinner because a player will almost always say he's OK. Coach Kirk Muller steered clear of pushing for Skinner's return when he was out, waiting for the doctors to tell him he was ready, so why should he handle this situation any differently? The doctors said he could go, so you send him over the boards. But anyone that saw Skinner's wobbly-legged attempt to get up knew that the hit was a good one. Even concussion experts aren't truly "experts" on brain injuries, but it was clear Skinner was rattled by the hit. Does that mean he suffered another concussion? No. But Hurricanes' first-round pick Ryan Murphy took a big hit this year, came back in that game, and was later diagnosed with a concussion that kept him out 10 contests. The Hurricanes, plain and simple, should have erred on the side of caution. They didn't, and that's wrong.

Number To Know

527 — Faceoff wins for Eric Staal this season, the third-most in the NHL. Staal has always resided among the league leaders in faceoffs taken, but this year he has a respectable 51.2 percent winning percentage that is good for 42nd in the league among players who regularly take faceoffs.

Plus

Bryan Allen — Allen was a key part in the Canes limiting the Penguins to just one goal. Allen had a game-high six blocks while logging 20:55 in ice time. Since rejoining Tim Gleason on defense, Allen has been playing more and doing it more effectively. Tack on him having words with Brooks Orpik after the big hit on Skinner, and it was as close to a perfect game as you'll find from No. 5.

Minus

Eric Staal — Staal played a complete game and had some excellent scoring opportunities (when he and Jiri Tlusty teamed up for successive behind-the-back passes that led to a Tuomo Ruutu scoring chance, it was perhaps the prettiest passing play of the year, even though it didn't lead to a goal), but his turnover led to Evgeni Malkin's goal, and he was stuffed late in the game by Marc-Andre Fleury and then failed to come through in the shootout. On the whole, an inspired performance that just didn't lead to results.

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