Penguins Drop Opener 4-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins had a forgettable evening in Raleigh tonight, dropping their season opener to the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 4 to 1.  The Hurricanes, who were playing their second game of the season, dominated in nearly every aspect of the game.  To their credit, the hurricanes looked more like the Stanley Cup winning team of two years ago than the injury ridden, 25th place team from last year.

Staal lit up the scoreboard twice in the first period.  Unfortunately it was Eric Staal, Jordan Staal’s evil brother.  The first tally came at even strength at  7:08 of the first, with assists by Jeff Hamilton and Tim Gleason.  Staal added a second even strength goal 6 minutes later at 13:21, with assists by Erik Cole and Jeff Hamilton.  The goals were Staal’s 2nd and 3rd of in his first 2 games, making for a very nice start to his season.  Despite a good jump at the beginning of the period, the Penguins just couldn’t get a well coordinated attack going in the offensive zone.  The shots were nearly even after one, with the Canes holding a 10-9 edge.  Jarrko Ruutu had a cross checking and a hooking call in the first, for a total of 4-minutes in the box.  The Pens had one two-minute power play that failed to convert.

In the second period, Carolina struck with two more unanswered goals.  The first, an even strength goal, came at 14:11 from Andrew Ladd with assists by Williams and Seidenberg.  The second goal, scored by Jeff Hamilton at 17:35, came on the power play while Sergei Gonchar was in the box for tripping.  Rod Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney were credited with assists.  The Penguins failed to convert on two power play chances and were outshot 16-10.  Marc Andre Fleury, who gave up several juicy rebounds through two, was pulled in favor of Dany Sabourin.  The move was most likely made to rest him for tomorrow night’s home opener in Pittsburgh.     

In the third, the Penguins scored a late game power play tally on a goal by Mark Recchi at 16:37 (congratulations to the one poll voter who selected Mark Recchi to get the first goal).  Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar were credited with assists.  The Penguins made a concerted effort to fight back in the third by outshooting the Canes 15-7, but it was too little, too late for the Penguins who were stoned repeatedly by a sharp Canes goaltender, Cam Ward.  Ward’s excellent play in goal earned him the games #1 star.  The second and third stars went to Eric Staal and Andrew Laad. 

The Penguins will need to chalk this one up as a learning opportunity and bounce back for tomorrow night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.  They will need to be better on the face-off (only 42% tonight), and control the puck better with more positional play and controlled passing.  There were too many turnovers from blind passes, and too many penalties early on tonight.  It will be interesting to see if Coach Michel Therrien adjusts the lines for tomorrow night. 

Thanks to the fans who joined us in the live in-game chat room.  It certainly adds another dimension to following the hockey game (be it by radio or on TV) when you have othe rfans to discuss the live action with.  The new NHLPens.com chat system worked much better than the sub-optimal chat solution used briefly in the pre-season.  Feel free to stop on by on game night and enjoy the company of other Penguins fans. 

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