Penguins blow another late lead in shootout loss to Hurricanes |

Penguins blow another late lead in shootout loss to Hurricanes

Jonathan Bombulie

RALEIGH, N.C. — If the Pittsburgh Penguins fail to make the playoffs or limp in with an unenviable seed, they won’t have to think hard to figure out why.

They’ve done a miserable job of holding leads late in the season.

Justin Williams tied the score in the final two minutes of regulation, and the Carolina Hurricanes recorded a 3-2 shootout victory Tuesday night.

The Penguins blew a lead late in the third period and lost beyond regulation for the fourth time in their past 13 games. They’re 1-3 in shootouts this season.

“It’s obviously something we need to get better at, especially in these tight games,” defenseman Jack Johnson said. “It’s definitely something we need to improve on.”

Williams scored the tying goal off an offensive-zone faceoff with 1 minute, 56 seconds to go.

Hockey coaches often talk about winning a faceoff being a team effort, and this was one of those occasions. Sidney Crosby actually won the draw from Jordan Staal, but Carolina’s Nino Niederreiter stepped in front of Matt Cullen to collect the loose puck in the circle and pass back to Dougie Hamilton in the high slot.

Hamilton’s shot appeared to bounce off the heel of goalie Matt Murray’s glove hand. Hamilton cleaned up the rebound just before Kris Letang could disrupt his shot with his stick.

All four late-game tying goals the Penguins have given up have come under different circumstances. There was a deflected shot from the blue line in Buffalo, a bad-angle shot from the corner through a defenseman’s legs in the outdoor game and a four-on-two break Sunday night against Philadelphia before the latest debacle.

The lack of a unifying thread between the goals makes it hard for coach Mike Sullivan to propose solutions.

“They’re all different,” Sullivan said. “This one was off a faceoff. It was a scramble. The puck’s bouncing everywhere. It’s not like we can identify one thing. We’d like to believe we can defend leads better. We have in the past and have been very good at it. So I know we’re capable.”

The one constant, of course, is Murray.

“Each time, there’s been one little mistake and I’ve got to make the save,” Murray said. “That’s pretty much what it comes down to.”

The loser point moved the third-place Penguins to within two points of the second-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division standings, but things are bunching up behind them. The Penguins are two points ahead of fourth-place Carolina and six points up on ninth-place Montreal in the race for the last playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

In a race this tight, the Penguins are going to be in a position where they have to protect a one-goal lead again, probably sometime soon. Sullivan said he feels his team in general, and Murray in particular, will not lack confidence when the situation arises.

“This team, they’re a battle-tested group,” Sullivan said. “They’ve been through a lot. I don’t worry about that.”

Before Williams’ goal, the Penguins broke a 1-1 tie when Letang, making his return to the lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury, scored on an odd-man rush with less than five minutes to play.

Jake Guentzel scored in the second period, tying the score 38 seconds after Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead.

After Williams’ goal, the Penguins killed two penalties: one in the final two minutes of regulation and another in the final two minutes of overtime.

Hamilton had the only successful attempt in the shootout. Petr Mrazek stopped Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Guentzel.

“It’s not good, obviously, but we’ve got to take the positives out of it,” Murray said. “We played well. It’s tough. It’s heart-breaking, but we’ve got to get the next one.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

The Hurricanes’ Andrei Svechnikov and the Penguins’ Jack Johnson collide with goaltender Matt Murray during the second period Tuesday.
The Hurricanes’ Micheal Ferland avoids the Penguins’ Phil Kessel to fire the puck on goal during the first period Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C.
The Penguins’ Erik Gudbranson collides with the Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook during the first period Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C.
The Penguins’ Matt Cullen tangles with the Hurricanes’ Greg McKegg during the first period Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C.
The Penguins’ Phil Kessel takes the puck away from the Hurricanes’ Brock McGinn during the first period Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C.
Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.