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Penguins Locker Room: Thoughts On a Missed Opportunity



Pittsburgh Penguins, Bryan Rust

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Pittsburgh Penguins should have had a major advantage going into the third period of their 3-2 loss to Carolina at PNC Arena Sunday night.

They had been off since a 4-2 victory at Florida Thursday night, and figured to be relatively well-rested.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, were playing on consecutive days and for the third time in four nights after earning a 5-4 overtime victory against Dallas Saturday.

Logically, Carolina should have had heavy legs by the time the third period rolled around.

But after Brock McGinn gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 5:03, the Hurricanes manufactured goals by Brady Skjei and Jordan Staal to earn their second one-goal victory against the Penguins this season.

“The third period, I thought, was pretty solid,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “Proud of the group. They’re tired, for sure.”

The Penguins figured the Hurricanes would be, but could not exploit their fatigue the way they would have hoped.

“We would have liked to (take advantage of Carolina’s schedule),” Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve all been on that side of the schedule. Those are challenging games, without a doubt. But this team, they’re hard to play against. They’re committed to playing the game a certain way. They have a good team game. That’s just how the game played out.”

The Penguins dominated the early minutes of play, running up a 10-2 advantage in shots at one point during the opening period.

Carolina eventually got its footing, however, and narrowed the shot gap to 11-7 by the intermission.

“They do a good job at putting pucks behind us and making us work to get out of our zone,” Brock McGinn said. “Maybe we could have executed breakouts a little better in the first period.”

The Penguins and Hurricanes have combined for 10 goals in their first two meetings this season, and it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll be involved in a high-scoring affair anytime soon.

Certainly, that won’t happen if the coaches have any control over it.

“They play a style of hockey that keeps the game tight, close-checking,” said Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith, who finished with 26 saves.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes have played two extremely competitive games this season, and their final two regular-season meetings — and any that might follow during the playoffs — figure to be pretty much the same.

That certainly is what Bryan Rust anticipates.

“You expect, when you play a team like this, that it’s going to be hard, tight-checking,” Rust said.