The Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie its game against Pittsburgh in the third period, but Jussi Jokinen — who had a hat trick — and the Penguins combined for three unanswered goals in the game’s final 15 minutes to walk away with a 5-2 win and first place in the Metropolitan Division. Eric Staal and Nathan Gerbe scored for Carolina, and Cam Ward stopped 32 of 37 shots for the Canes.
1. If Carolina is going to compete with powerhouse teams like the Penguins, they need to do a better job of dictating play. Through three games, the Hurricanes have been reactive instead of proactive in trying to set the pace of the game. That can be proven by simply looking at the time of ice thus far this season: the second line of Jordan Staal, Patrick Dwyer and Gerbe have all logged more even-strength minutes than the team’s three most lethal scorers (Eric Staal, Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner). By making it a priority to stop the opposition with the second line rather than unleashing the offensive players, coach Kirk Muller has guided his team into reactive territory. No one’s asking for Carolina to run-and-gun with more talented teams, but more aggression is needed if the Hurricanes are going to build the confidence to know they can go head to head with teams like Pittsburgh.
2. Ward probably didn't walk away from Tuesday’s games feeling great about his effort, but he did his part in keeping Carolina in the game with some spectacular efforts. Still, there were signs that the Hurricanes’ No. 1 netminder still hasn't shaken off all the rust following last season’s lockout and injury. With three games in four nights starting Thursday, Anton Khudobin should see one — if not two — starts while Ward continues to round into form.
3. It was good to see Drayson Bowman making a difference on the top line with Eric Staal and Semin, but it was at the expense of Jiri Tlusty being shuffled down the rotation. From where I sit, it's a little too early to panic about line combinations, especially when the one being messed with was arguably the NHL's best last year. It's clear the team misses Tuomo Ruutu’s wrecking ball (I'm not requesting Ruutu-Miley Photoshop mashups, folks) forechecking, and once he's ready there will be some changes anyway. But even though the top line has failed to reconnect like last year, it's the one line Muller knows can succeed. Stick with it.
Number To Know
50 — or more seconds per shift in each of Ryan Murphy’s three games this season, including tops on the team the last two outings. Muller has long preached short shifts, but thus far Murphy has been out noticeably longer than his fellow teammates. Sometimes that can be good — some end-of-shift, end-to-end puck-carrying displays have showcased Murphy at his best a few times already this young season — but there are also times when he has found himself caught on the ice for way to long. Being tired and pinned in your own end is not a recipe for success for a smaller defender.
Justin Faulk — Faulk has been an absolute rock on the back end, logging more than 24 minutes a night and consistently facing the opposition’s best. He did more of that Tuesday, spending more than 60 percent of his even-strength ice time against the Pens’ top two lines. Faulk — and partner Andrej Sekera — proved to be up to the task. Not only was the duo only on the ice for one Pittsburgh goal — Jokinen’s power play tally to open the scoring — but they were both on the score sheet for both Carolina goals. Faulk earned an assist after his point shot was redirected by Eric Staal, and Sekera got secondary assists on that and Gerbe’s goal.
Ron Hainsey — There was plenty of fault to go around Tuesday, but Hainsey’s inability to tap the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury twice in the third, coupled with his and the other trio of defensemen not name Faulk and Sekera inability to slow the Penguins made him especially stand out.