It was a heavyweight clash of Metropolitan Division giants as the Carolina Hurricanes welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to PNC Arena on Saturday night. On the heels of a lousy performance against the Flyers on Wednesday, this game was important for the Canes. With another long layoff between games, this was one the team sorely needed.
The same lineup hit the ice for the Hurricanes, with the lone exception coming in the net. Antti Raanta started for the first time since taking a loss to the Panthers. The Penguins countered with Tristan Jarry in the first half of a back-to-back for Pittsburgh.
The beginning of the game appeared to carry over from the Philadelphia loss. The Canes were buzzing around Tristan Jarry, but nothing was going into the net. Stefan Noesen missed wide on a breakaway. Jordan Martinook batted a puck out of mid-air off the post. Sebastian Aho was denied on two point-blank chances at the top of the crease. Brady Skjei hit the crossbar. All of that was in the first ten minutes.
Naturally, Sidney Crosby gets Pittsburgh on the board first, just past the halfway point of the period. The pass from Jake Guentzel takes an unfortunate bounce off Tony DeAngelo’s stick, and Crosby is there waiting to backhand it home. It was the only goal of the period, which stung because of all the missed chances the Canes had.
The Hurricanes had a decided edge in the second period. Antti Raanta made a huge attacking save on Reilly Smith on Pittsburgh’s first power play. He made a flashier save with his glove on Jake Guentzel. Then, the offense took over. The Finnish Connection struck for a beautiful goal to tie it. As we’ve seen a million times, Teuvo Teravainen dropped a pass for Sebastian Aho, and he made up for the two missed chances earlier. Add some heroic defensive plays by Brady Skjei and Jack Drury, and the Canes were heading into the third period tied.
Both goalies opened the third period with incredible saves. Tristan Jarry used his stick to keep Seth Jarvis from scoring. Antti Raanta made a great save on Noel Acciari’s short-handed breakaway. However, the Canes would find the lead right as a power play was ending. Brent Burns wired a low clapper past Jarry early in the period to give the Canes their first lead of the night.
Andrei Svechnikov thought he’d added to the lead a few minutes later. Jesperi Kotkaniemi made a great pass to Martin Necas, who found Svechnikov streaking in. Svechnikov snapped it where Mama keeps the cookies, but the Penguins challenged it. The situation room deemed that Necas was offside by a hair, taking the goal off the board. Just 44 seconds later, Sidney Crosby capitalized on a bouncing puck to score his second of the night, tying the game again.
The sad times weren’t felt for long. A shade under three minutes after the tying goal, the Hurricanes answered. Jaccob Slavin walked down from the point with the puck and fed it to the waiting stick of Seth Jarvis, who redirected it into the net to put the Canes ahead again. Aided by a toe save from Antti Raanta on Reilly Smith, the team kept the lead into the dying minutes. Erik Karlsson was called for tripping Sebastian Aho in the final two minutes, and Jarvis would score into an empty net on the ensuing power play to put the game away. The Hurricanes used a three-goal third period to secure a 4-2 win over the Penguins.
Recent losses to Florida and Philadelphia came about largely because the opponents’ stars outplayed the Hurricanes’ stars. We saw it rectified against the Lightning, but it hasn’t been a consistent occurrence for the team this season. Even with Sidney Crosby scoring both Pittsburgh goals, the edge in superstar supremacy goes to Carolina. Sebastian Aho, Seth Jarvis, and Teuvo Teravainen combined for seven points, led by Jarvis’ three. The Canes’ defensemen outperformed Pittsburgh’s. There wasn’t much separation in the game. It was what you’d expect from two veteran teams. Fortunately, it ended with two points for the good guys.
While we can point to the Aho line for how well they played, Antti Raanta put the team on his back. It didn’t come without a bit of luck. Bryan Rust double-doinking his short-handed breakaway in the first period prevented a situation similar to Wednesday against the Flyers. His defense also helped prevent a few goals. However, he made some huge stops in all situations to put the team in the best position to grab two points. I know this doesn’t make his night sound exciting or memorable, but if you saw his performance, you’d know how big it was.
Like last week, the Hurricanes will have a long layoff before their next game on Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Wednesday night will be the third game during this five-game homestand, with Tampa Bay and Columbus left to close it out next weekend. Business is about to pick up because the team will play every other day until the end of the month.