RALEIGH, N.C. (KDKA/AP) — Even in defeat, the Penguins showed why they are one of the elite teams in the NHL.
Down 3-0, and seemingly out of the game after two periods, the Pens dug deep to eventually tie it up; but the problem with making a comeback is you’ve got to first fall way behind, and the energy spent to get back normally hurts you later.
Jordan Staal scored twice as the Pens put together a rally in the third period, but it was his big brother Eric – the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes – who eventually got the game-winner.
Chris Kunitz also scored for the Penguins in the 5-3 loss, and backup goaltender Brent Johnson made 21 saves.
Cam Ward had 37 saves for the Hurricanes. Tuomo Ruutu scored twice, Jeff Skinner had a goal and two assists and Chad LaRose also added a goal.
The Hurricanes captain converted a rebound at 15:26 of the third, smacking it past Johnson to put Carolina back on top 4-3 after they wasted their three-goal advantage. It was Staal’s fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 18.
He appeared to snap his drought earlier in the period, but the official had a quick whistle and blew the play dead before the puck crossed the goal line.
LaRose added a breakaway score with 2:30 left. The win snapped a four-game slide for Carolina.
Ward was particularly sharp in the first two periods, turning aside a flurry of quality opportunities from the Penguins. He stopped Evgeni Malkin on a partial breakaway, Kunitz on a rebound opportunity in front and James Neal on a 2-on-1 with a nice glove save.
Eric Staal admitted afterward he was motivated by the play of his brother, who sparked the Penguins’ rally by scoring twice early in the third.
The first came on a one-timer in the slot while the second came on a short-handed breakaway. Staal feathered the puck between Ward’s legs and pumped his fist to the delight of the Pittsburgh fans in attendance.
Their roars got louder when Kunitz beat Ward on a wrist shot to tie the score at 3 with 7:42 remaining.
But Eric Staal prevented another difficult loss for Carolina.
The Penguins’ Steve Sullivan left the game with a lower-body injury.
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