RALEIGH, N.C. — The Pittsburgh Penguins know all about this storyline.
All too well, actually.
There’s nothing new about losing a close game to Carolina — hey, it happened all four times they met last season, and by one goal on each occasion — but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
Which is why their 4-2 defeat by the Hurricanes at PNC Arena Saturday night has to sting more than the average loss.
The Penguins, who entered the evening with a four-game winning streak on the road, have not won at PNC Arena since Dec. 22, 2018. Each of their previous six losses there (0-3-3) had been by a single goal.
Coach Mike Sullivan made a significant personnel adjustment before the game, dropping Rickard Rakell, who had failed to score a goal in the first 15 games, from the No. 2 line to the third and promoting Radim Zohorna to the second line.
One thing that didn’t change was Sidney Crosby being a major offensive force. He backhanded a shot past Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta from the left side of the crease at 10:40 to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead and extend his scoring streak to 11 games.
Jake Guentzel and Erik Karlsson got assists on the goal, Crosby’s 11th. Karlsson has an eight-game points streak, while Guentzel has at least one point in each of the past seven.
Crosby scored about a minute after Tristan Jarry made a sensational stop on Carolina forward Sebastian Aho, who had a pair of uncontested chances from the front edge of the crease.
Carolina got the only power play of the opening period when Chad Ruhwedel was called for high-sticking at 18:06.
Penalty-killing forward Bryan Rust had the best scoring chance during the two minutes that followed, however.
He got behind the Hurricanes’ defense and broke in alone on Raanta, but his shot slammed off the right post.
Long-ago Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal almost tied the game early in the second, but his shot trickled just wide of the right post after hitting Jarry’s glove.
The Penguins got a chance with the extra man when Carolina center Jack Drury tripped Vinnie Hinostroza at 3:06, but the Hurricanes killed the penalty. During that power play, Raanta made an outstanding stop on Reilly Smith, who had a excellent chance from close range.
Aho pulled the Hurricanes even at 13:06, throwing a shot past Jarry from the inner edge of the right circle.
The Penguins got their second power play when Carolina winger Andrei Svechnikov was sent off for goaltender interference at 15:22, but they did not record a shot on Raanta while he was in the box.
Marcus Pettersson kept the Penguins even with about two minutes to go before the intermission, as he broke up a 2-on-1 rush for the second time in the game.
Just two seconds after the Penguins were able to kill a slashing minor assessed to Guentzel 44 seconds into the third, Brent Burns hammered a slap shot past Jarry from the top of the left circle to put the Hurricanes in front, 2-1.
Earlier in that power play, Raanta had denied Noel Acciari, who was sent down the slot alone by Matt Nieto.
Svechnikov appeared to give Carolina some insurance when he beat Jarry on the short side from the left dot at 8:32, but the Penguins challenged that the play had been offside, and a video review confirmed that they were correct.
The Penguins made the most of that reprieve less than a minute later as Crosby, hovering at the left side of the crease, shoveled a Kris Letang rebound past Raanta at 9:16, for his seventh goal in the past six games.
Letang’s assist was his 700th point, making him the 28th defenseman in NHL history to reach that milestone, and just the 10th to do it with one team.
Seth Jarvis countered for Carolina at 11:52, as he set up in front of the net and steered a Jaccob Slavin feed behind Jarry to make it 3-2, Hurricanes.
Any comeback hopes the Penguins had were snuffed when Karlson was penalized for tripping Aho at 18:48, after Jarry had been replaced with an extra attacker. Jarvis scored into the empty net with 37.7 seconds to go in regulation after Jarry was pulled again.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will return home to face Vegas Sunday at 6:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.