The Carolina Hurricanes again cracked the Pittsburgh Penguins and created scoring chances. Unlike the clubs last couple meetings, however, a goaltender stole the show. Penguins rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith was nearly unbeatable. DeSmith stopped 34 of 35 shots and the Penguins snatched victory from Metro Division rival Hurricanes, 3-1 at PPG Paints Arena, Tuesday night.
DeSmith is making the most of his first taste of the NHL. After a pair of stellar performances, last week, on the Penguins west coast road trip, DeSmith earned his third consecutive start, Tuesday. It was a surprise nod as Penguins starter Matt Murray returned to full participation, Tuesday morning.
He again looked much bigger than his listed 6’0 181lbs frame.
DeSmith stopped three glorious, uncontested scoring chances in the back half of the first period. Victor Rask took the puck from Penguins Matt Hunwick and skated laterally across the crease, but DeSmith kept his glove high and made the save.
DeSmith also stopped Hurricanes defenseman Noah Hanifan, who skated around Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz for a point-blank chance.
Trailing 1-0 in the second period, the Penguins received a gift from Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. Ward had been solid until Dominik Simon (2) lit the lamp with a 25-foot wrist shot from the top of the circle. Ward badly misplayed it. 1-1.
Just over one minute later, the home crowd erupted when Penguins rookie J.S. Dea scored his first NHL goal. Bryan Rust, who returned to injured reserve for his first game since December 27, raced down the left wing. Dea (1) went straight to the net, and neatly one-timed Rust’s pass behind Ward. 2-1.
DeSmith denied former Penguin stalwart Jordan Staal twice in the closing minutes of the second period.
Midway through the third period, Jake Guentzel scored his first even strength goal since December 29–also against the Hurricanes.
Guentzel’s goal was a thing of beauty for hockey lovers. The beat the traffic crowd also loved it as they had an excuse to be home by 9:30. Off the rush, center Riley Sheahan followed his shot, won the puck battle down low, reversed the play to Phil Kessel behind the net, and Kessel snapped it to Guentzel (15) in front. The puck barely nestled on Kessel’s stick before it was on Guentzel’s, then in the net. 3-1.
DeSmith cooling took a snared a couple more scoring chances from Teuvu Teravainen and Staal in the third period, too.
The Penguins vaulted themselves into playoff position, by virtue of points, though the trailing teams such as the New York Rangers have two games in hand.
Carolina scored midway through the second period. Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick was about to called for tripping, and stopped, however, the play did not. Hurricanes center Derek Ryan overpowered Jake Guentzel en route to the net and his own rebound. DeSmith made an acrobatic save on Ryan’s original shot, but neither Guentzel or Hunwick was able to stop him from stuffing the rebound across the line.
Analysis and Press Box Nachos
–If my praise of Casey DeSmith was too faint, allow a more blunt assessment: He’s seeing the puck like a beach ball. His head is up after every save. He’s seeing the shot, the situation and not over-reacting. In net, he looks six inches taller than his 6′-0″ frame. His glove his sharp, as are his reactions.
I don’t know if this is a hot streak or his game. I’d like to find out.
–The Penguins bottom centers. Each bottom tier line contributed a goal with shining moments of offense. Otherwise, the Penguins bottom six centers are adept at suppressing the Penguins offense.
J.S. Dea played a season-high 5:35. The coaches continued juggling of the lines to find space for Phil Kessel, and now Bryan Rust.
–I didn’t like large portions of the Penguins game. Carolina had far too many glorious scoring chances. If one, or two of them lit the lamp…it would have been a very different game.
–Justin Schultz was a pylon on two different Hurricanes rushes, allowing Hanifin and Elias Lindholm unfettered access to the Penguins goal. Rough night. The Pens are activating their defense regularly now, and Schultz will need to find the range on his shot and up his game from here.
–The Boston Bruins have been scouting the Penguins. Tuesday, Bruins Assistant General Manager John Ferguson scouted the game. One name we’ve heard is Kevan Miller.
Film Study, a playoff projection, and a combative column some will love and others will HATE are coming in the next 24 hours! Plus we’ll have more great features this weekend involving US Women’s hockey, and whatever else John Perrotto scrapes up tomorrow at practice!