Coming off the holiday break, the Carolina Hurricanes started on time, looked rested but not rusty, controlled a majority of the possession battle, and controlled the scoreboard for most of the game, but a late surge by the Pittsburgh Penguins was enough to keep them on the wrong side of a 3-2 score at PPG Paints Arena.
The Canes opened the scoring eight minutes in when a beautiful no-look pass from Noah Hanifin found an open Elias Lindholm and he finished it off with a purpose.
The first period ended with a scary moment as a face-off collision between Jordan Staal and Carl Hagelin caused an upended Hagelin to clip Staal in the mouth with a skate blade. Staal immediately headed to the locker room but was able to return after receiving stitches.
Staal’s return was just in time to watch Sidney Crosby score his 26th goal of the season, 26 seconds into the second period. The Penguins controlled the tempo early in the second period, but the Canes were able to withstand the push after Crosby’s goal.
Time for more magic from the Finns. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen again showed great chemistry as Aho baffled two defenders, then a skilled move and shot from Teravainen grabbed Matt Murray’s attention, leaving Lee Stempniak with a prime rebound shot to regain the lead for the Canes.
Down 2-1 heading into the second intermission, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan made what appeared to be a curious change in net to start the third period, replacing Murray with Marc-Andre Fleury. Sullivan would later explain that Murray suffered a lower body injury near the end of the second period.
And, for the second period in a row, the Canes were stymied coming out of intermission. This time it was veteran Chris Kunitz who found the back of the net with help from Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino for his third goal of the season, just two minutes into the third frame.
After the Kunitz goal the Canes began to regain their composure, and returned to dominating the possession battle, outshooting the Penguins 19-9 in the third period. But they were never able to solve Fleury, leaving the door open for the defending Stanley Cup champions to capitalize on an odd-man rush with Patric Hornqvist feeding Carl Hagelin for what would become the game winner with just under five minutes remaining.
Elias Lindholm summed it up succinctly in his post-game interview: “They got the two points and we got nothing, so it is what it is.”
- Ryan Murphy returned to the Canes lineup for the first time since Nov. 10, logging 18:36 in ice time, assisting on Lindholm’s goal, and taking four shot attempts, two blocked shots and one hit.
- The Canes took 46 total shots on goal, a season high. Sebastian Aho led the team with seven shots on goal. Brock McGinn led in shot attempts with eleven.
- Both teams must have played well within the NHL rulebook, since there were no penalties called against either team.
- The Hurricanes return to Raleigh to close out their calendar year, facing the Chicago Blackhawks Friday, then traveling to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on New Years Eve.
Rank the performances
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