It had been nine years since the Hurricanes played this poorly in front of Cam Ward, as the Pittsburgh Penguins came into PNC Arena on Friday and handed the Canes a 7-1 shellacking that was somehow not as close as the final score.
The first six minutes were played at a breakneck pace. After an Ian Cole tripping penalty less than thirty seconds into the game, the Canes looked largely toothless on the power play - and then took off, firing six shots on Matt Murray in the next four minutes. Sebastian Aho in particular was playing inspired hockey, missing a turnaround shot a few seconds before Trevor Daley poked the puck away from Aho in front of an open net.
At the other end, Cam Ward got a late start because all the action was at the south end, but he was up to the challenge when the Pens finally got rolling, shutting down an Evgeni Malkin one-timer from the near circle and denying a stuff chance by Patric Hornqvist in short succession.
Pittsburgh took the lead at 12:31 on an unassisted goal by Trevor Daley, who jumped up to glove down a lazy clear by Teuvo Teravainen and let loose with a shot that may have tipped off Brett Pesce’s stick in the slot. Ward was fooled and the puck went into the top corner of the net.
Jake Guentzel looked to have made it 2-0 with 4:20 to go in the first, but after a delay that lasted longer than Martin Frk’s Hurricanes career, it was ruled no goal because the net was knocked off the pegs before the puck went into the net. The Canes would have had a case to challenge had it been ruled a goal, because Hornqvist pushed Ward’s pad out of the way before Guentzel took his shot, but it ended up being a moot point. Shots in the period ended 13-12 for the Canes, meaning the Pens outshot the Canes 12-6 after the first TV timeout.
After another Canes power play went by the board, sinking them down to 1-for-35 in the past month, Carl Hagelin doubled the Penguins’ lead at 6:59 of the period, cleaning up a rebound in front of the net with Teravainen again unable to do much of anything, continuing the horror show for the Finnish forward. It was Hagelin’s eighth career goal against the Canes, and his 21 points against Carolina in his six-year career are the most he has against any team.
A few minutes later, Elias Lindholm had possession between the circles and skated the puck into the corner for no apparent reason, in case you were wondering how things looked at the attacking end.
Then things went from bad to worse. Justin Faulk bobbled the puck in front of Ward after a rebound, and Conor Sheary cleaned it up at 12:28. Eighteen seconds later, Noah Hanifin did likewise and gave Chris Kunitz his fifth of the season.
By then, the wheels were off and the large contingent of Penguins fans in the near-sellout crowd of 17,312 made it seem like the acronym on the building was wrong: it was, indeed, still PNC, not PPG. Phil Kessel then made it 5-0 on a power play after Jeff Skinner took his second undisciplined penalty of the period, a bad time for the Canes’ alternate captain to have a bad flashback to frustrations of years gone by.
Very little happened in the third, with the Penguins understandably playing conservatively and allowing Murray to see the puck. He was helped by a Lee Stempniak shot that was just sent wide and an Elias Lindholm pass to Jordan Staal that was in Staal’s skates with an open net staring him in the face.
Bill Peters clearly had seen enough, benching Skinner and Teravainen for the entire third period. And Cam Ward had seen enough, as well. When Evgeni Malkin scored the Penguins’ sixth goal, a puck that rolled over Ward’s skate and into the net, Ward took a punch at Hornqvist who was on his back to the left of the net.
When your goaltender is taking roughing penalties because no one else on the roster was willing to, that pretty much says all you need to know.
Viktor Stalberg spoiled Murray’s shutout bid with a shorthanded breakaway goal at 7:09, but two minutes later Sheary scored his second of the night to restore the six-goal lead. That would hold up as the final margin in a night to forget for the Hurricanes, who were serenaded with a “here we go Steelers, here we go” chant from the numerous Penguins fans with 3:00 to go in an awful reminder of how things had gone.
Rank the Performances
Against our better judgment, here’s your chance to weigh in on how you think the team performed tonight. Upvote the players you think played well and downvote the ones who didn’t.