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1st Place Lost: Carolina Raises the Bar, Burns Penguins Sloppiness 4-3



Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes

The Pittsburgh Penguins (31-13-8) again looked sloppy for much of the first 30 minutes. The Carolina Hurricanes (34-11-4) capitalized on giveaways and earned more takeaways. The Penguins rallied but Carolina’s chances were too many and the Penguins mistakes too great. Carolina beat the Penguins 4-3 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Carolina scored just nine seconds into the second and third periods to maintain control of the game.

Sebastian Aho (22) salted the game with a power play goal following another Carolina breakaway and a Kris Letang penalty midway through the third period. Evan Rodrigues scored for the first time since Jan. 6–a power-play goal–with just over one minute left but it wasn’t enough.

The Penguins had plenty of chances in the first period, but they also gave up as many. Turnovers were again the Penguins’ kryptonite. Carolina had at least a handful of breakaways and two-on-ones. Tristan Jarry made those saves.

The Penguins also had several good chances. Both Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Carter go behind the Carolina defense for unabated chances. Antti Raanta made those saves.

However, Carolina scored first when defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Mike Matheson couldn’t connect on a Carolina dump-in late in the first period. Evan Rodrigues and Kasperi Kapanen failed to win puck battles. Carolina forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was momentarily uncovered as Rodrigues lunged for a puck in the slot. Kotkaniemi (11) roofed a turning wrister from the hash marks.

The second period did not start well for the Penguins.

Carolina won the opening faceoff and stormed the Penguins zone just nine seconds into the period. Defenseman Brett Pesce’s right-wing wrist shot clunked off Jarry and bounced into the slot, over Kris Letang’s stick, just off the top off Jeff Carter’s blade, off Carolina center Jordan Staal’s pants and through Jarry’s five-hole.

Carolina overwhelmed the Penguins for most of the second period. Later in the second period, the shot advantage ballooned to 25-12. However, vintage Pittsburgh Penguins fashion survived with great goaltending until a bounce put them on the scoreboard.

A good shift by the Penguins’ fourth line with Brian Boyle midway through the second period began to change the game. Then, Danton Heinen – Evgeni Malkin – Jeff Carter line pinned Carolina later in the second period. The Penguins were able to use the short trip to the bench to get a line change against the tired Carolina defense.

Defenseman Kris Letang raced from the bench to keep the offensive zone possession. Bryan Rust (18) buried a Letang rebound to finally break the Penguins zero.

Three minutes later Sidney Crosby, was ahead of the play. Some nifty puck work at center by Rust and Jake Guentzel sprung Crosby on a breakaway. The Pittsburgh Penguins captain (15) scored career goal No. 501 with a slapshot from the left-wing circle.

However, as they did to start the second period, Carolina scored just nine seconds into the third period. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin’s pass was intercepted and Jesper Fast (10) was uncovered as the weakside trailer.

Editor’s note: the original version incorrectly identified the Malkin line as on the ice for the third period goal.

Carolina pushed Jarry to make too many Grade A saves. Jarry stopped 26 of 30. Raanta was very good, especially in the first period. He stopped 31 of 34 for the win.

Andrei Svechnikov stripped John Marino for two breakaway chances. He led all players with five shots.

Carolina has three games in hand on the Penguins, and with the win have a two-point lead over the Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division.