Red-hot Hurricanes too much for Pens
RALEIGH, N.C. — A coaches’ challenge wiped away the Carolina Hurricanes’ first go-ahead goal. There was no doubting the second one.
Sebastian Aho’s goal with 1:55 left in the second period helped the Hurricanes earn their season-best fourth straight win, a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
Derek Ryan had a goal earlier in the second for Carolina, which improved to 7-0-1 in its last eight games.
“We’re playing our game — we’re playing quick,” defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “We’re a fast team, and we’re using that to the best of our advantage. As long as we keep doing that, we’re going to keep climbing the ladder.”
Brian Dumoulin scored for the short-handed Penguins, who were down a season-high five injured players — including top goalie Matt Murray and defenseman Kris Letang.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions have lost six of nine to slip to seventh place in the Metropolitan Division. They have just one regulation victory since Dec. 2.
Backup Tristan Jarry made 31 saves for the Penguins, who had won their previous seven meetings with the Hurricanes.
“We’re well aware of the type of game (Carolina is) trying to play,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’re a speed team. They’re a young team that can really skate. So they didn’t try to make fancy plays through the neutral zone. They didn’t try to force things. They just played north-south, straight ahead, and put the puck behind us and forechecked.
“And we had to try to turn the table on them by spending time in the offensive zone, hanging on to pucks, forcing them to have to expend energy defending us,” he added. “I didn’t think we were stiff enough on pucks in the offensive zone.”
Cam Ward stopped 27 shots in his fourth straight start for Carolina, which entered tied with Pittsburgh for sixth place in the division race.
The key momentum shift came late in the second: It looked like Slavin had put Carolina up 2-1 with a blast from behind the circle with 2:16 left, but Sullivan challenged the score and it was overturned when a review determined Ryan interfered with Jarry.
“That’s OK — we got one right back,” Slavin said.
Aho then gave the Hurricanes the lead 21 seconds later when he snapped a poke check that could have been mistaken for a rebound past Jarry from the circle.
“Right place, right time, I guess,” Aho said.
Ryan tied it at 1 with 13:35 left in the second, taking a feed from Elias Lindholm from behind the net and slipping the puck past Jarry from point-blank range.
Dumoulin — traded by Carolina to Pittsburgh in 2012 in the Jordan Staal deal — put the Penguins up 1-0 at 4:34 of the first, taking a drop pass from Jake Guentzel and beating Ward high for his fourth career goal. Pittsburgh had been 10-0-1 when leading after the first.
“We talked about having a good start,” Sullivan said. “We get the first goal. We accomplished what we wanted in the first period, but I thought there was a letdown in the second period and we spent a lot of time in our defensive zone.”