Fleury posts shutout, Crosby scores twice as Penguins beat Hurricanes

Bill West
| Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, 5:51 p.m.

In their first month under coach Mike Sullivan's supervision, the Penguins regularly sensed they dictated play against opponents, only to reap little in the way of satisfaction.

Their shot attempt totals increased, and the opposition's dipped below the mark that existed under Sullivan's predecessor, Mike Johnston.

Perhaps no opponent better represented the bad-luck conundrum that existed for the Penguins in late December and early January than Carolina. Twice, the Hurricanes claimed one-goal wins over the Penguins. Twice, the result stemmed from some sort of aberration.

In the third meeting of the season between the Penguins and Hurricanes — two teams mired in the pack of Eastern Conference wild-card hopefuls — no surprising twists emerged.

Even with star defenseman Kris Letang out of the lineup, the Penguins controlled play in both ends Sunday afternoon at Consol Energy Center and pulled well ahead by late in the second period of their 5-0 win.

“In a couple of those (previous) games, we probably deserved better,” center Sidney Crosby said. “They came down to special teams. We did a much better job of that (today).”

Olli Maatta zipped a wrist shot over goaltender Eddie Lack's right shoulder four minutes into the game. Conor Sheary buried another clean look with 10 minutes remaining in the first period.

Crosby banked a puck off his skate to give the Penguins a power-play goal with 36 seconds remaining in the second period and added his second tally midway through the third. Trevor Daley, playing in his 800th NHL game, scored his third goal as a Penguin minutes later.

The Penguins finished with a 32-22 edge in shots and 50-44 edge in shot attempts. Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for his third shutout of the season and first since Oct. 31.

“We've had a few tough games against them,” Fleury said. “We're always trying to come back. So to finally have the lead and let them chase around a little bit, it was good. We kept pushing it and got a few more goals.”

At no point did a Carolina slap shot crash off the back wall, only to float back toward the net, down Fleury's back and into the net, as it did Jan. 12 when the Hurricanes won 3-2 in overtime.

Lack looked as vulnerable Saturday as his .894 save percentage through 17 appearances suggested. Except for the goal off Crosby's skate, the Penguins beat Lack to the blocker side each time.

Lack never raised his performance level as teammate Cam Ward, owner of a .905 save percentage, did when he made 37 stops in Carolina's 2-1 win over the Penguins on Dec. 19.

The Hurricanes finished 0 for 4 on the power play. Even when they held a five-on-three advantage early in the second, they struggled to keep the puck away from Penguins penalty killers. Carolina's inefficiency stood in contrast to Dec. 19, when it went 2 for 4 with a man advantage at Consol Energy Center, and to Jan. 12, when it scored the winner on a power play to snap the Penguins' streak of 28 successful penalty kills.

“We've played a lot of pretty consistent hockey, and I think the results have been mixed,” Sullivan said.

“We've talked a lot about that with our group, about continuing to believe and just play the right way, and the results will go our way. Fortunately tonight, we got the result we were looking for.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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