The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night by a score of 3-2, in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Canes fell behind by two goals midway through the opening period and could not quite gather enough momentum to over-take the home team.
Unfortunately for the Canes, Tuomo Ruutu and Erik Cole were both knocked out of the game with injuries. Ruutu was leg-whipped or slew-footed from behind by Mark Eaton in the first period and limped off the ice. Cole was hit hard by Matt Cooke in a tough knee-to-knee hit in the third. Cole was helped from the ice, but tried to make a return. He skated for 12 additional seconds and left the ice again.
Paul Maurice said after the game that both players had lower body injuries and would be evaluated Tuesday. There were no penalties called on either play.
The Penguins started the scoring when Miro Satan popped out of the penalty box all alone, gathered up a pass from Matt Cooke, and deked out Cam Ward on the breakaway to make the score 1-0. Just a minute and change later, Evgeni Malkin scored on a backhander to make it 2-0.
The Hurricanes were able to put some consistent pressure on Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period, but seemed to over-pass at times and did not take advantage of some open opportunities. Chad LaRose finally did slip one past Fleury to get the Hurricanes on the board about 13 minutes into the second.
But the Pens would score again midway through the third period on a powerplay tally by Philippe Boucher on a goal that Cam Ward would love to have back. The Hurricanes fought hard, but looked a bit tired as they were double-shifting some players because they were down two forwards. (Ruutu played 2 minutes and Cole played 14).
Brooks Orpik was called for elbowing with just two minutes and change left in the game, and the Canes found some new life. Joe Corvo scored on a shot from the point as Carolina pulled Cam Ward to give them an extra attacker on the play.
With the score 3-2, Eric Staal got very close to tying the score, but guided the puck too close to Fleury and the Pens goalie was able to make the save and preserve the win.
The Hurricanes will have to take solace in the fact, that other than a couple of mistakes in the opening period, it was a pretty evenly played contest which could have gone either way. Ward can certainly play better and the forwards need to stop trying for the perfect play and just put the puck on the net. There was one play where Fleury was down and out and even with an open net, the Canes were still passing the puck.
But keep in mind that the Pens can play better as well. Game 2 will be on Thursday night.
It's nothing new losing game one as the Canes lost the first game of both previous series. It's also more of the same as the Hurricanes always seem to come away with injuries when visiting Mellon.
The Penguins out-shot the Hurricanes 31-25.
Faceoffs were even, 50/50 with Eric Staal winning 64% of his attempts. Matt Cullen won 29%.
Erik Cole led the team with six hits. The team had 28.
Tim Gleason had 5 blocked shots which was tops on the Canes.
To the people who emailed me complaining about my Brooks Orpik article last week, why was the defenseman elbowing someone with just 2:34 left in a game when his team is winning it, 3-1?
Remember the outcry when Alex Ovechkin went knee to knee with Sergei Gonchar? We will see what is said about Matt Cooke's hit on Erik Cole.
Pittsburgh went 1-4 on the powerplay, Carolina was 1-2.