Late 2-way heroics lead Pens past Hurricanes
Marc-Andre Fleury made 19 saves after he came in cold to replace an injured Matt Murray in Wednesday's 3-2 win over Carolina at PPG Paints Arena, but the veteran goaltender made sure to name-drop the other Penguins who stood in the way of shots during a rare performance in which the team struggled to dictate terms.
Steve Oleksy and Bryan Rust received mentions. Fleury tried to recall whether Carl Hagelin or Patric Hornqvist delivered another block late.
“A lot of guys got in front of pucks to make sure we kept the lead,” said Fleury, who stepped in after Murray suffered a lower-body injury late in the second period, according to coach Mike Sullivan, who did not have further details.
The Penguins allowed 46 shots on goal and another 44 attempts but pulled off a victory after Hornqvist turned a shot block at one end of the rink into an odd-man rush opportunity at the other, where he set up Hagelin for the winner with four minutes and 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
“He sacrificed his body for the team,” Hagelin said of Hornqvist. “Then we all started skating it out and kind of chipped it, and Horny won his battle by the bench there.
“(Carolina is) a team that likes to try to get pucks on net, and we were blocking it hard. It was good stuff that it went the other way. (Trevor Daley) did a good job of skating it up the ice.”
Daley's presence in the lineup provided a much-needed infusion of experience to a lineup that lacked Kris Letang (lower-body injury), Brian Dumoulin (broken jaw) and Olli Maatta (illness). And the vulnerability of the Penguins' piecemeal defensive corps showed, as the Hurricanes put together several long offensive possessions and denied clean breakouts.
An absence of speed and offensive efficiency caused the Penguins to turn to less characteristic acts. They outhit Carolina, 39-29, and tallied 29 blocked shots. Hornqvist finished with seven hits and three blocked shots, and defensemen Steve Oleksy, Ian Cole and Justin Schultz combined for 17 blocked shots.
But all of the Penguins' blocked shots put them in position to succeed.
Carolina defenseman Noah Hanifin raced over to the left half wall, retrieved a blocked Ryan Murphy shot attempt and fed winger Elias Lindholm in the slot to put the Hurricanes ahead eight minutes into the opening period.
Lee Stempniak chased down and buried a loose rebound in the second period to re-establish Carolina's lead after Sidney Crosby scored his 26th goal of the season just 26 seconds after the end of the first intermission.
Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins another strong start to a period when he scored two minutes into the third.
Interspersed between those timely goals from the hosts came long stretches where Carolina carried the play.
“It was obviously one of those nights where it was a bit of a struggle,” said Sullivan, whose team finished with 26 shots on goal and another 17 attempts. “We didn't seem to have a whole lot of juice as a team. So it was (about) trying to find ways to win.
“That was something we said to them after the second period: ‘Good teams find ways. We know we don't have our A-game here tonight. Over the course of a long season, there's going to be those nights where we don't necessarily have our ‘A' game, but we better have our ‘A' commitment and our ‘A' effort, and I thought our players did have that.”
They found a way to secure their seventh win of the season in which they trailed after two periods — no other team in the league has more than five.
Fleury considered that a credit to an optimal blend of confidence and desperation.
“Just shows the character of the room,” he said. “Everybody believed we can do it. No matter what the score is, we always believe we can come back in games.”