Reversing the trend of their previous two games, the Pittsburgh Penguins controlled the third period in their 3-1 defeat of the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night at PNC Arena.
The Penguins (8-4-0, 16 points) snapped a three-game losing streak by scoring a goal in every period, including the tiebreaking tally by Chris Kunitz in the second and an insurance marker in the third by rookie Jayson Megna, who earned two points in just his second NHL game.
Sidney Crosby assisted on both goals to maintain his lead in the league scoring race, while also helping the Penguins stretch their advantage in the Metropolitan Division to five points over Carolina (4-5-3, 11 points) and the Islanders. Defenseman Brooks Oprik assisted on all three goals and, like Crosby, was plus-3.
Pittsburgh had been outscored 6-1 in the third periods of their losses to the Isles and Toronto over the weekend, but they protected their 2-1 lead Monday night expertly, outshooting the Hurricanes 9-3 and surrendering very few scoring chances in the final 20 minutes.
Megna, a 23-year-old winger who made his NHL debut Saturday in Toronto, assisted on Tanner Glass‘ goal that put the Penguins up 1-0 about 8 1/2 minutes into the game. Glass scored his second of the season after Orpik sent Megna into the Carolina zone with a bank pass off the boards. Megna was stopped by ‘Canes goalie Justin Peters, but Glass slammed in the rebound.
A carom also had a role in Megna’s goal at 7:11 of the third. Once again, Orpik was involved, feeding the puck to Crosby in the slot for a turning shot that deflected off Megna’s leg and behind Peters. A quick video review confirmed that the score was legal, and Crosby scooped up the puck for keepsake purposes.
Crosby was playing on the seventh anniversary of his first career hat trick, but he was in full facilitator mode in Raleigh. The Penguins captain added to his career highlight reel with 3 1/2 minutes left in the middle period when he spun to collect Orpik’s stretch pass at the Carolina blue line, shook a defender and hit Kunitz with a bullet pass at the inner edge of the left circle. Kunitz redirected his fifth goal of the year off the arm of Peters and in.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was seldom challenged, making 20 saves in a workmanlike effort. He allowed Nathan Gerbe‘s 5-on-3 goal with 3:57 left in the first period, but the Penguins killed off the remaining penalty time and three more power plays en route to improving to 2-0 against the Hurricanes this season.
The Penguins will host the Boston Bruins at 8 p.m. Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center. NBC Sports Network will televise the game nationwide.
Notes: Defenseman Rob Scuderi, freshly signed to a multi-year free-agent contract in the offseason, was diagnosed with a broken left ankle back in Pittsburgh. He was injured Saturday night on a body check from Toronto’s David Clarkson…Forward Chuck Kobasew left Monday’s game with a lower-body ailment and did not return. The Penguins are already missing fellow wingers James Neal and Beau Bennett due to injuries.