ShareThis Page
Penguins fall to Hurricanes, lose ground in playoff race | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins fall to Hurricanes, lose ground in playoff race

Jonathan Bombulie
| Tuesday, February 5, 2019 9:32 p.m

carolina

When the Pittsburgh Penguins are at their best, they finish scoring chances with ruthless precision.

When that part of their game fails, they usually are in pretty big trouble.

That was the case Tuesday night as goalie Curtis McElhinney made 23 saves, and Jordan Martinook gave him all the offensive support he needed with a first-period goal, leading the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-0 victory over the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.

“It was a tight game, and you’ve got to capitalize when you get your chances in a game like that,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We didn’t.”

Under different circumstances, the Penguins could have chalked it up as a game where the puck just wouldn’t cooperate.

In the first period, Juuso Riikola drove up the right wing and shoved a shot between McElhinney’s pads, but it trickled wide of the post. In the second period, Jake Guentzel hit a post with a power-play redirection. In the third, Crosby had a point-blank chance dribble wide.

Their spot in the standings, however, makes it difficult for the Penguins to simply shrug their shoulders and vow to get ’em next time.

They’re 5-7-0 since an eight-game winning streak came to an end Jan. 6. They are only four points ahead of the hard-charging Hurricanes, who have their sights set on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

There’s a sense the impending return of Justin Schultz and Evgeni Malkin from injury will give the Penguins a boost, but given the inconsistency of their results of late, it had better be a pretty big boost.

“We’ve got to continue to push to try to raise the bar,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

One of the biggest problems holding the Penguins back as they’ve struggled to find their game in the past month has been the lack of a consistently clean breakout, which can lead to long shifts in the defensive zone.

That was an issue Tuesday, but only in spurts. Sullivan did not lay the blame at the feet of his defensemen for those instances, either, noting the five-man effort required in the transition game.

“If we didn’t execute. For example, on the outlet pass, we needed to come back,” Sullivan said. “Or if the play stalled or there was a puck bobble, that’s when we need to be available more than once. We’ve got to put the brakes on. We’ve got to come back to the puck. We’ve got to offer that second and third support.”

The Hurricanes lead the league in shots per game, but it was the bodies they got to the net that gave the Penguins trouble on this night.

Martinook’s goal came on a shot from the left wing through the legs of defender Tanner Pearson.

Brett Pesce scored in the second period on a shot from the blue line through traffic that goalie Matt Murray didn’t see until too late.

“I say it all the time. That’s how most goals are scored in the league nowadays,” Murray said. “As a goalie, it’s tough to make that first save when you can’t see the puck. Even if you make that first save, it’s hard to control the rebound.”

Not only is it a league-wide trend, it’s also something the Penguins might want to emulate, especially on nights when their finishing touch deserts them.

“I think maybe we’re looking to pass right now sometimes too much,” Guentzel said. “I think we’ve just got to start throwing pucks on the pads and getting in front of the net and create some rebounds. Definitely something we could learn from them. They’re shooting from everywhere.”


Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.


Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter .


715111_web1_715111-2b1037b5a0074b7d857317b17b6abc98
AP
A shot by the Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook gets past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray during the first period Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
715111_web1_715111-3b4347026d1b4d0ea7b830a85b5ec594
AP
The Hurricanes’ Brett Pesce (22) celebrates his goal with Sebastian Aho (left) as the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby skates back to the bench during the second period Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
715111_web1_715111-b250fa1e18b046b7923125fc5bb375d5
AP
The Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook, center, celebrates his goal with Andrei Svechnikov (37) and Brock McGinn (23) as Penguins goaltender Matt Murray reacts during the first period Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
715111_web1_715111-b0ffd4c2327e4006b7ac4102fe7b72f4
AP
The Penguins’ Garrett Wilson is upended next to Hurricanes goaltender Curtis McElhinney during the first period Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.
Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.