There was a lot the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t like about their 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night.
Like the way they failed to maintain the strong two-way game they played for the first 15 minutes or so of the opening period.
The way their power play sputtered through a couple of opportunities, and the Hurricanes were able to capitalize on the momentum generated by their successful kills.
But nothing — absolutely nothing — got to them like a non-call during the overtime, when Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis cross-checked Bryan Rust to the ice near the Penguins’ blue line.
Penguins players seemed to anticipate a whistle and penalty on Jarvis, but there was none and seconds later, Carolina had a two-on-one break that culminated in Brett Pesce rapping an Andrei Svechnikov pass behind Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry to end the game.
“When you saw it from the bench, up close, at the speed it was at, that was the reaction,” Mike Sullivan said. “That reaction was real, because it was a dangerous hit. So I disagreed with the call.”
Not surprisingly, Rust echoed that sentiment.
“The whole play was fairly bizarre,” he said. “The whole game was bizarre, some of the things that were called.”
The loss was the Penguins’ fifth defeat in their past six home games and dropped their record to 11-8-4.
They were able to salvage a point in the standings when Jake Guentzel scored in the final minute of regulation, deflecting in a Jeff Petry shot from the right point. That goal prevented the evening from being a total loss for them.
“Obviously, we’d like to get two,” Petry said. “But to get one, with those circumstances, is a positive.”
That’s more than can be said for the Penguins’ power play, which failed to score a goal for the sixth game in a row, and didn’t even register a shot on goal during either of its two opportunities.
“Obviously, anytime you don’t score on the power play and you don’t have sustained (offensive-)zone time, it’s not what you want,” Rust said.
Even worse, Carolina’s penalty-kills generated momentum that translated into goals a few minutes after the Hurricanes returned to full strength.
“Give Carolina credit,” Sullivan said. “They put a lot of pressure on us.”
The Penguins played without Kris Letang, who works on their top defense pairing and No. 1 power-play unit but missed the game because of illness. He has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games.
His absence opened a spot in the lineup for Chad Ruhwedel, who played opposite P.O Joseph on the third pairing. The Penguins’ other tandems on defense were Brian Dumoulin-Petry and Marcus Pettersson-Jan Rutta.
Kapanen played 12 minutes, 55 seconds and was credited with three of the Penguins’ 32 shots and three hits. He also received a fairly upbeat evaluation from Sullivan.
“I thought (Kapanen) was trying to use his speed,” Sullivan said.
The Penguins entered the game with 17 successful penalty-kills in a row, and stretched that streak to 18 after Guentzel was penalized for hooking at 2:08 of the first period.
They had only been back to full strength for 26 seconds when Sidney Crosby put them in front, 1-0, by putting a close-range shot between the pads of rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov.
Assists on the goal, Crosby’s 12th, went to Guentzel, who fed a pass to Crosby in the slot from along the left-wing boards, and Joseph.
It was the fifth time Crosby has scored the first goal of a game this season, tying John Tavares of Toronto for the league lead.
The Pittsburgh Penguins got their first power play of the evening when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was called for tripping at 1:55 of the second period. Petry filled in for Letang on the left point of the No. 1 unit, but most of the excitement during those two minutes happened at the other end of the ice.
Jarry had to stop a pair of two-on-one breaks while the Hurricanes were shorthanded. A potential tying goal at 3:50 was waved off because an attacking forward had slid into Jarry, causing the net to be dislodged before the puck entered it.
Carolina got one that counted less than two minutes later, however, as Martin Necas swatted in a loose puck from the left side of the crease at 5:45.
Svechnikov scored the go-ahead goal by carrying the puck around the net and tucking a shot inside the left post at 17:38 of the second. That lead held up until Guentzel’s goal with 57.4 seconds to go in regulation.
Perhaps the abrupt ending that followed minutes later should have been as predictable as the Penguins struggling when they’re up a man. After all, going into Tuesday night’s games, teams that trailed at the second intermission had rallied to win 44 times this season.
The Penguins have been in that position seven times in 2022-23. Their next victory when that happens will be their first.