What goes up, must come down. The Pittsburgh Penguins free fall continued on Sunday with their second straight loss and their eighth loss in 10 games as they squandered a pair of leads to the Carolina Hurricanes. After a conservative start, the Penguins played increasingly loose, and the same mistakes which haunted them in their loss on Saturday to the Washington Capitals were again boldly present. Carolina winger Justin Williams had two goals, as the Penguins were outworked and outplayed in their 5-2 loss to Carolina at PPG Paints Arena.
And coming down is the hardest thing.
The Penguins now lead Carolina, the first team out of the Eastern Conference playoff seeds, by just five points.
Leading by one goal, Carolina scored the backbreaking goal in the middle of the third period. Carolina stalwart Justin Williams (6), who earlier missed a couple of golden chances, deflected a pass past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry for an insurmountable 4-2 lead. And Carolina scored a couple of more goals, too.
“That third period was as quiet as I’ve ever heard this arena,” Williams said. “This arena gets really buzzing. So we definitely did something right.”
Jarry allowed a few shaky goals on Sunday.
Despite dominating the scoring chances for most of the second period, the Penguins yielded the only two goals in the period. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry started well but whiffed on a point shot by Jaccob Slavin (6) midway through the period.
Then late in the period, as the Pittsburgh Penguins were killing a penalty to Bryan Rust, Evan Rodrigues created a shorthanded scoring chance, but then took a bad holding penalty.
As the hockey gods usually deem bad penalties, Carolina scored for a 3-2 lead. Carolina defenseman Jake Gardiner (4) teed a slapshot from the point which also eluded Jarry.
The first 10 minutes of the game were tepid until the Penguins broke the seal. Penguins LW Patrick Marleau, who failed to convert several chances on Saturday, finally scored his first goal since the Penguins acquired him on Feb. 24. Marleau darted from the bench at full speed, burst through a seam in the Carolina defense at the blue line and slipped a backhander past Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, midway through the first period.
The Penguins lead was short-lived.
Just 31 seconds later, Carolina quickly scored off an offensive zone faceoff. Morgan Geekie (1), who played his first NHL game, scored on his first NHL shot when he deflected Jake Gardiner’s shot-pass behind Jarry.
The Penguins increased effort produced results later in the first period. While shorthanded, forward Evan Rodrigues drew a penalty as he hustled for a loose puck in the Carolina zone. On the resulting Penguins power play, Carolina forward Jordan Martinook high-sticked Jared McCann. The Penguins a five-on-three for 22 seconds, and capitalized.
Evgeni Malkin was most eager to shoot as he blasted a pair of shots in those 22 seconds. From the point, Malkin (23) powered his second shot through Nedeljkovic and Patric Hornqvist, who well-screened the Carolina goalie.
Carolina made the final five minutes a laugher after Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin played hot-potato with the puck in front of Jarry. Williams (7) quickly slammed it past Jarry.
Then Justin Schultz failed to cover Geekie (2) in front of the net. In his first NHL game, Geekie earned his third point by pounding his second goal of the game.
“It was tough. They play a hard game. They were on pucks and making plays in front of the net,” Jarry said. “We just have to defend that and play hard.”
Jarry stopped only 30 of 36. Alex Nedeljovic earned his first win of the season. He turned away 28 of 30 shots.