Penguins fail to build on shootout win, lose ground with loss to Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. — After he had a scoring chance at the left post thwarted by the stick of a Carolina Hurricanes defenseman in the third period Friday night, Jake Guentzel made his way to the bench, sat down and banged his head off the ledge in front of him three times.
It was that kind of night for the Penguins in a season that's been full of them so far.
Sebastian Aho scored a tie-breaking goal late in the second period, and the Penguins dropped a 2-1 decision to fall behind the Hurricanes into seventh place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins had hoped a rousing, come-from-behind shootout victory over Columbus two nights earlier might be a turning point in their season.
“I don't know when we're going to make that adjustment, but it certainly needs to be done right now,” defenseman Ian Cole said.
The game's key stretch came with less than three minutes left in the second.
The Hurricanes, who had been surging all period, appeared to take the lead on a Jaccob Slavin slap shot through traffic from the left half-wall.
As it turned out, some of that traffic interfered with goalie Tristan Jarry. A coach's challenge video replay showed Derek Ryan caught Jarry with an elbow to the helmet before the puck went in.
The Hurricanes responded to that disappointment beautifully. The Penguins did not.
On the very next shift, Slavin made his way in from the left point and backhanded a puck toward the crease. Jarry poke-checked it to Aho on the doorstep for a shot and a goal.
“We still gotta learn,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “We gotta weather those storms. Teams are going to push and pressure us. We can't give. I think we're giving right now. Wait for the next time you come over the boards and make a change. We've got to look at ourselves and be the change.”
The Penguins had been plagued by poor starts through much of a stretch that has seen them lose six of their last nine games, but that wasn't a problem Friday night.
Less than five minutes in, Dumoulin picked up a puck behind his own net and started a rush that led to his second goal of the year.
Dumoulin sprung Jake Guentzel up the left wing with a long breakout pass. When defenseman Brett Pesce got a stick on a Guentzel centering pass, it caromed back to a trailing Dumoulin for a shot under the crossbar.
“I thought we did a good job in the first of battling,” Dumoulin said.
It was almost all downhill from there.
In many of their recent losses, the Penguins have spent plenty of time in the offensive zone but have failed to capitalize on scoring chances. That wasn't the case Friday.
Carolina held a 24-10 advantage in shot attempts in the second period and a 65-47 edge for the game.
How did they accomplish that? By playing the kind of game coach Mike Sullivan clearly wishes his team would.
“They played a pretty simple game,” Sullivan said. “They played north-south, straight ahead, played behind us. It really was just puck pursuit. They just forechecked, and we didn't handle the pressure the way we needed to.”
Sidney Crosby was uncharacteristically on the wrong side of the possession battle as well. He has a total of three points in his last seven games.
“He wants to help this team win,” Sullivan said. “It's been a struggle for him to go in the net as of late. He's a proud guy. He wants to lead the team in that regard. When that doesn't happen, it can be frustrating.”