RALEIGH, N.C. — The second half of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season started just as badly as the first half ended.
Oh, perhaps they weren’t listless during their 2-1 loss to Carolina Saturday night at PNC Arena, as they had been for much of a 4-1 defeat by Winnipeg at home 24 hours earlier, but the bottom line was identical.
The loss leaves the Penguins 2-6-2 in their past 10 games, with their only victories during that stretch against a couple of Western Conference bottom-feeders, Arizona and Vancouver.
Carolina swept the four-game season series, although the Penguins did take two of those to overtime. Every game was decided by one goal.
What has to be particularly maddening for the Penguins is that they had an extended two-man advantage late in the second period, and failed to generate a goal that would have cut into Carolina’s 2-0 lead.
The Penguins got just two shots on Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen during the final 84 seconds of the second. Both were by Evgeni Malkin, who also had a chance as the 5-on-3 was ending.
The obvious positives for the Penguins were their strong push in the third period and the play of goalie Casey DeSmith, who stopped 34 of 36 shots and kept them in the game after being pulled from his previous start.
Marcus Pettersson missed his second consecutive game because of illness, which means the Penguins again were without their top three defensemen, since Kris Letang and Jeff Petry have been sidelined by injuries since last month.
There’s been no word on when any of the three will return, although there’s been no indication that Pettersson’s ailment is unusually severe.
Carolina defenseman Brady Skjei got the only goal during the opening period, as his wrist shot from high in the left circle beat DeSmith at 17:02. Skjei’s shot actually hit DeSmith’s glove, but had enough velocity that it continued into the net.
“I definitely would like to have that one (back),” DeSmith said. “It hit the top of my glove, bent it in and trickled over.”
Jason Zucker nearly staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead twice in the first eight minutes of the game, but hit the left post from the slot about four minutes in and another off the right post about four minutes later.
Carolina had the only power play of the period, when the Penguins were caught with too many men on the ice at 11:10. The Hurricanes got four shots on goal while the Penguins were down a man, but failed to score.
Carolina had a 15-11 edge in shots at the intermission, but that figure didn’t reflect some of the Hurricanes’ most dangerous chances, as they missed the net with at least three high-quality opportunities.
The Penguins got a man-advantage when Hurricanes defenseman Jalen Chatfield was penalized for holding Drew O’Connor at 1:55 of the second, but were unable to score and probably were fortunate that Carolina didn’t.
The Hurricanes had a 2-on-1 break that didn’t result in a shot, but did include Jake Guentzel bowling over DeSmith as he hustled to get back to defend against the Carolina rush.
Chatfield got on the stat sheet again at 9:14, this time for driving a slap shot past DeSmith on the stick side from the slot to put Carolina up, 2-0.
Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan was called for tripping Malkin at 18:10 of the second, and Jordan Staal went for tripping DeSmith at 18:36. The Penguins, though, never seriously threatened.
Andersen preserved Carolina’s two-goal cushion by stopping Zucker from the inner edge of the right circle at 1:37 of the third, but shortly thereafter gave the Penguins a goal that got them back within striking distance.
The Penguins were on another power play when Andersen inexplicably tried to swat the puck down the ice one-handed, only to have it carom off Penguins forward Rickard Rakell and end up in the net behind Andersen at 7:48.
The goal was Rakell’s 15th and was, of course, unassisted, since Andersen couldn’t officially receive credit for setting it up.
Chatfield picked up a delay-of-game minor at 13:39, but the Penguins again failed to take advantage of their time with the extra man, as they did when Brent Burns was called for cross-checking with 62 seconds to go in regulation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Sunday and will face Anaheim Monday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.