Hurricanes send Penguins limping into All-Star break

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) — Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular in goal
once again, but his performance was not enough to keep the
Pittsburgh Penguins from stumbling into the All-Star break.

All-Star Eric Staal snapped a tie eight minutes into the second
period and Cam Ward made 32 saves as the Carolina Hurricanes
bounced back from an early deficit to post a 2-1 victory over
the reeling Penguins on Tuesday.

Ray Whitney scored a power-play goal for the Hurricanes, who
used another stellar defensive effort to improve to 2-1-0 on
their four-game road trip.

“We came in to play, we came in to compete, and bottom line is,
we came here to get the two points (against Pittsburgh), who’s
right in there competing with us, so it was a big win,” Staal

All-Star Evgeni Malkin scored with the man advantage 2:33 into
the contest and Fleury stopped 38 shots two nights after
recording his second shutout of the season for the Penguins, who
had their two-game winning streak halted while completing a
disappointing first half of the season with a 23-21-4 record.

“We have faced a lot of adversity and we have a lot of
injuries,” Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. “I hope the
break will give time for some players to rest so that they’re
ready to come back after the break, because those are going to
be really crucial games.

“We’re a team that’s hurting right now. We’ve got a lot of
injuries, and hopefully, that break can give us some time for
our team to get healthy and get a healthy lineup on the ice.”

Coming off a 35-save performance in a 2-0 win over the Toronto
Maple Leafs on Monday, Ward shined again in this contest. The
2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner preserved a one-goal lead over
the second half of the game and stymied several opportunities by
Penguins during a four-minute power play in the final stages of
the third period.

“If you look at the game, I think that’s where they generated a
lot of their chances,” Ward said. “They’ve got arguably two of
the best players in the league in Malkin and (captain Sidney)
Crosby, and we did an excellent job on them.

“It looked like they were getting a little frustrated with being
bumped around, and that’s what we need to do to get them off
their game and not let them get so creative because they are
such skilled players.”

Crosby was impressed with Ward’s effort.

“He was solid,” the All-Star said. “We got some pretty quality
chances against him throughout the game, and he was pretty hard
to beat there. He made some pretty big saves.

“He was doing a good job of absorbing (rebounds) and really not
giving us any second opportunities. He did a good job.”

Ward’s prowess has helped Carolina, which has won two straight,
enter the All-Star break with a much-needed momentum boost after
previously having lost five in a row.

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“I think it will be good for us to get away and recharge the
batteries and get our minds off hockey for a little bit,” Ward
said. “When we come back, we’ve got work to do, and every game
will be huge from here on out.

“We were talking about using these last two games as a
momentum-booster going into the All-Star break. We had a great
effort (Monday), followed by tonight.”

The Hurricanes secured eight victories in 11 contests from
December 16-January 6, a stretch that was capped by a
season-high, four-game winning streak. But they began to tumble
afterward, enduring the team’s longest slide since going 0-4-1
from December 5-15, 2006.

Now, it is the defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins
who are feeling the pressure.

“Obviously, we can’t accept losing right now and we’ve got to
find a way to win,” Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal said. “Right now,
we’re not doing that.”

The Penguins entered having won two straight thanks to Fleury’s
efforts in a 3-0 blanking of the New York Rangers on Sunday.
The success continued early in this one as Malkin opened the
scoring with a backhander that sailed over the shoulder of Ward.

However, Pittsburgh’s offense suddenly slipped into a dormant
slumber and caused it to cough up its chance of winning three in
a row for the first time since capturing six straight from
November 1-15.

“That’s a game that I thought we were going to win,” Therrien
said. “I thought we were prepared. I thought we played well
the first period, we had chances. In this league, when you’re
facing a goalie that’s that hot… Cam Ward was outstanding,
and he kept their team in the game.”

Whitney forged a tie with 5:30 remaining in the first, firing a
slap shot from above the left faceoff circle past Fleury for his
15th of the season.

Eric Staal then gave Carolina the lead for good when he beat
Fleury with a wrist shot from in front at 8:06 of the middle
session for his team-leading 20th goal.

“The guy was just in the corner and put a pass in front, and
(Eric) Staal just tipped it by my pads,” Fleury said.

Justin Williams recorded his 200th point as a Hurricane on the
play with an assist.

“(Williams) has the skill and talent level and, I think, a
burning desire to play with great players,” Carolina coach Paul
Maurice said. “He’s played exceptionally well with Eric

“It’s also helped us balance our lines a little bit, with
(Tuomo) Ruutu and with (captain Rod) Brind’Amour, and when Scott
(Walker) was in the lineup. When we’re back to having three
lines, we can be dangerous and defend at the same time.”