Penguins turn tables on Hurricanes with 3-2 victory
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Penguins were short-handed and exhausted.
Their depth, the kind that was absent last season, rose to the occasion and delivered a 3-2 victory that kept the Penguins tied atop the Metropolitan Division with the New York Islanders.
The Penguins were playing their sixth game in nine nights, were 24 hours removed from a gruesome performance at home against the Hurricanes, were deploying their backup goaltender and were forced to play without defenseman Kris Letang and center Marcel Goc.
While it wasn’t their prettiest performance, it was effective enough.
Left wing Chris Kunitz scored for the first time in 12 games. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who learned he’d be replacing Letang on Saturday afternoon, scored, as did defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Center Andrew Ebbett, filling in for Goc, contributed an assist on Bortuzzo’s goal.
Thomas Greiss stopped 32 of 34 shots for his third victory.
“This hasn’t been an easy part of the schedule,” center Sidney Crosby said. “To get through that grind and to finish this stretch off with a win, it was a good job by everybody.”
The injuries to Letang and Goc appear minor.
Letang was injured on the shift following a collision with Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty on Friday, according to coach Mike Johnston. The defenseman made the trip to Raleigh but was deemed unfit to play.
“It’s a minor lower-body injury,” Johnston said. “I don’t expect it will be too much (time missed). (The team medical staff) just thought this morning that he wouldn’t be ready to play.”
Bortuzzo certainly was ready to play. Known more for his physical play and defensive work, Bortuzzo scored on an end-to-end rush to give the Penguins the lead for good in the second period.
When approaching the Carolina blue line, he looked up and realized that the Hurricanes were giving him available entry into their territory. Bortuzzo increased his speed at the blue line and skated through the gaping hole.
As he reached the right circle, Bortuzzo buried a shot to goaltender Anton Khudobin’s stick side to give the Penguins a 2-1 advantage.
“We always stress to get your feet moving,” Bortuzzo said. “One of their defenseman went toward Siller (left wing Zach Sill). I just took the ice and went with it.”
Crosby (zero points) and Malkin (one assist) were relatively quiet, but the overall team effort was widely praised.
“We didn’t play very well last night,” right wing Craig Adams said. “Tonight wasn’t a picture of perfection, but the intensity was way up. Our compete level was higher. It’s nice just to come in here and get a win.”
When the Penguins weren’t controlling play against Carolina, their goaltender was making sure they maintained the lead.
“Look at what Greisser has done,” Johnston said. “He’s just played outstanding. You saw the saves he made on the penalty kill. He’s been great. He’s given us a chance to win every game he’s been in. Having a tandem like that shows the depth that we have in the organization.”