Sloppy Penguins fall to Hurricanes
Give the Penguins this: They found consistency on home ice.
Of course, a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday took the peaks and valleys the Penguins have experienced lately at Consol Energy Center and pretty much eliminated the peaks.
It was, however, consistently filled with coaching points.
And strong quotes from players assessing the team’s performance.
“We were pretty bad,” forward Craig Adams said. “We got what we deserved.”
“We were pretty flat as a team,” defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. “We didn’t get our game going. There was a difference. They played with energy. We didn’t.”
“They did the right things, and we didn’t play well at all,” captain Sidney Crosby said.
The Penguins struggled early to find swift and organized line changes. That evolved into neutral-zone turnovers and a void of anything resembling a shot for much of the second period.
In the third, a Crosby penalty led to a power-play goal for Carolina.
When it was over, the Penguins (15-5-2) fell to a team that had lost six of seven and entered the game with the second-fewest points in the Eastern Conference.
Jiri Tlusty had a pair of goals to lead the Hurricanes (7-12-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Making matters worse, Penguins center Marcel Goc took a puck to the right foot late in the first period and did not return.
That forced coach Mike Johnston to get creative with his line combinations, sometimes using Nick Spaling at center, other times doubling up Evgeni Malkin’s shifts or mashing the third and fourth lines together.
If Goc is out for an extended period, it likely will pull Spaling into that role and move someone Johnston has given top-six minutes to in the past three games.
Spaling started the game with Crosby and Patric Hornqvist but wound up in a variety of roles after Johnston juggled his lines to try to find a spark that never came.
Johnston talked about shot volume after Friday’s morning skate, and the message didn’t stick.
The Penguins finished the first period with nine shots and didn’t get to 12 until about two-thirds of the way through the second.
Hornqvist gave the Penguins life when he took a drop pass from Crosby and beat Cam Ward from the middle of the right circle at 15:52 of the second.
That proved to be short-lived, though, as Nathan Gerbe took a cross-ice feed and beat Marc-Andre Fleury for the winner at 3:10 of the third.
Ehrhoff was caught out of position on the goal and was penalized for tripping later in the third with the Penguins down a goal.
An Adams turnover in the neutral zone — too much stickhandling, Johnston said — led to Patrick Dwyer’s goal that made it 2-1 at 2:54 of the second period.
“I thought we tried to stickhandle by pressure, and that’s definitely not how we want to play,” Johnston said. “We want to have support to the puck. We want to work the space behind. We don’t want to stickhandle through the neutral zone.”
Perhaps the only good thing is, with a game Saturday at Carolina, there isn’t a lot of time to dwell on this one.
“You want to forget about that horrible game that we had,” Letang said, “and start over again.”