The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped handfuls of home-ice frustration into the Carolina Hurricanes' trick-or-treat bags last night, handing them their second straight 3-0 loss before the Raleigh faithful. Pascal Dupuis netted a pair of goals off Sidney Crosby passes, Brent Johnson placidly foiled 33 shots and the Penguin penalty killers snuffed eight Carolina power plays in the kind of efficient road victory that the Canes had authored only a night before against the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden.
But the RBC Center seems to be possessed; the Canes might need an exorcism. Perhaps the marketing staff should get Max von Sydow to sound the hurricane warning siren as the team takes the ice next Wednesday night against the New York Islanders. Or they could re-freeze the rink with holy water.
As in their opening-night shutout at the hands of the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, the young Canes had their chances, but each was followed by a withering "Awwww" from the crowd. By the third period, Penguins fans were chanting "Beat the traffic!" and Canes fans were obliging them.
Jiri Tlusty apparently didn't use enough Pert Plus in his recent conditioning stint with the Charlotte Checkers. His miss of a gaping net off the outside of the post just a minute into the third period, when the game was still in reach at 2-0, was emblematic of the game overall. After 47 seconds of a two-man advantage failed to yield any chances, Dupuis capped the scoring with a perfect shot off the far post behind Cam Ward.
Young teams like the Canes have to outwork their opponents to win games. But the Penguins, who have their own home woes to worry about after losing a game and star center Evgeni Malkin to the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night, did all the little things that the Canes did not. Johnson planted a skate up under the crossbar to wedge himself across the goalmouth during a scramble in the crease. Enforcer Eric Godard dove with just over a minute left to clear the puck from the Penguins' zone to preserve the shutout. The visitors' passes clacked crisply from tape to tape.
Canes coach Paul Maurice shuffled his lines throughout the third period in an attempt to spark a similar chemistry in his team. "I didn't think that [Tuomo] Ruutu's line was getting what they were getting last night, and I thought that we needed more out of Eric [Staal]'s wingers, so we moved guys around a little bit. I like the idea of [Brandon] Sutter being able to play against the other team's best. I think he can do it well now, but I also think it's going to be his role, his job," Maurice explained. Displaced somewhat by rookie Jeff Skinner's emergence, Sutter has just one even-strength goal this season while centering a slideshow of third- and fourth-liners.
In any case, the learning curve continues in Raleigh. A night after he scored twice at MSG—one on an electrifying fake that froze Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist—Skinner couldn't finish any chances, and watched Maxime Talbot skate past him for the Penguins' second goal. "He had body position on me. I tried to catch up but he was too far ahead, I guess," Skinner said of Talbot. Maurice chalked it up as a valuable lesson for the wunderkind: "You learn here not to try to skate as fast as the guy beside you, but as fast as you possibly can."