Cary, NC – With Cam Ward in goal again, the Carolina Hurricanes came from behind and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1, at a nearly full PNC Arena Friday night. The Penguins always bring a good crowd as there are many that made the move to God’s Country giving Cary its famous acronym, as well as having won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.
Before the game there was a nice tribute to Mark Recchi who, along with Doug Weight, were great rental players the Canes got during their Stanley Cup run in 2006. Recchi just got into the Hockey Hall of Fame so there was a ceremonial puck drop recognizing that accomplishment.
Pens Score on a Non-Call
Having home ice advantage allowed Coach Bill Peters to always have the shut down D-men of Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce line up against Sidney Crosby’s line as was the case on the opening face-off. Jordan Staal’s line was assigned to the Evengi Malkin line with Justin Faulk and Klas Dahlbeck on defense. The Canes had another very good start having won the opening face-off, methodically bringing the puck into the Pens end and showing excellent passing.
The Pens have a few injuries to key players but their bench goes deep which is one reason they’re the reigning champs. Early in the game, as the Canes were on a line change, the Pens brought the puck into the Canes end. As Justin Williams was skating towards the bench, Patric Hornqvist blindsided Willie, knocking him to the ice on what appeared to be a textbook interference penalty but the refs missed it just as Brian Dumolin got a pass after skating past the sprawled Cane player on the ice and sent it in for the 1-0 Pen lead.
Willie immediately went to talk to both refs but the no-call and goal stood. Peters was more than a little animated on the bench, possibly informing the refs the rules apply equally to all teams. The balance of the first period was tight checking by both sides with few serious attacks and when there were Ward and Jarry Tristan made the saves.
Ryan’s Birthday Present, Aho’s 11th of the Season
The tight checking continued in the second and as happens frequently, tight checking leads to penalties. The Canes got their second power play of the game when Frank Corrado slashed the stick out of Jeff Skinner’s hands. The beginning of the powerplay looked scrambled but after the Canes settled down they managed six shots on net. The Canes PK seems to be coming around to their form of the past few years and killed both Cane penalties; not just killing the penalties but allowing very few shots on net.
Wardo’s rebound control was again very good and his glove was remarkably quick. Just over the six-minute mark, Dahlbeck passed up to Elias Lindholm who skated passed a defender right to the goal. Tristan made a good stick but Lindy kept the puck behind the net. After settling, he noticed birthday boy Derek Ryan camped out on the right post so he sent a hard pass to Ryan. Ryan redirected the puck then jammed at it with the puck going in to tie the game. Late in the period, Pesce and Slavin both made great stick checks in their own end. One check led to a Cane breakout that was brought into the Pens end by Pesce. Pesce crossed the blue line thought shot but the lane was blocked so he passed over to Slavin. Slavin, never shy about shooting, saw Ryan going to the front of the goal let go a hard slap shot. Ryan was nudged as he was going to the net, then nudged Tristan ever so slightly as Slavin’s bomb went in.
The Pens challenged the goal for goalie interference and I must have an out of date rule book as Ryan was not in the crease at the time, but the goal was called back. The Hockey gods must have the same rule book I have as just 20 seconds later, Slavin zigged and zagged around two defenders then let a deceptive shot go towards the goal. Tristan made a stick save but right to Sebastian Aho’s stick and the sly Swede made it 2-1 Canes. The officials did not give Slavin an assist but here at CaryCitizen, we’ll give him one as it clearly was an assist plus the controversial call just seconds earlier.
Canes Defense Shuts Everything Down
The Penguins turned up the heat in the third. It seemed either Crosby’s or Malkin’s line was on the ice every shift with Peters shuffling the defensive pairing accordingly. The Pens had 14 shots in the third period which was their total for the first two periods, with Wardo stopping everything. As the game went on, the chippy play got a little more intense. The Pens have some big bodies and when Seabass got called for holding Ian Cole, all of 45 pounds heavier than Seabass, the Caniacs let the ref know about that call.
Noah Hanifin was highly effective on the ensuing powerplay, stick checking the puck several times and used his excellent skating skills to get to the puck for clears. On the Pens side, Phil Kessel, not on the scoreboard but did have an excellent game and led the Pens with four shots on goal. The game was exciting right up to the final buzzard and with the seventh win in the last 8 games, don’t look now, but the Canes are within striking distance of the Wildcard playoff spot.
There’s a lot of hockey left and the balance of the season promises to be tight as more conference and divisional play will be happening.
Next game is Tuesday, January 2, 2017 against Washington and Alex Ovechkin. Be There!