A night after needing Ray Whitney’s goal with half a second remaining to beat Atlanta 4-3 for the Stanley Cup champions’ first victory in five games, Carolina effectively wrapped this one up in a few minutes. Scott Walker scored midway through the first period for the first of his two goals, and the Hurricanes were in control after that to improve to 8-1-1 in Pittsburgh since the 1999-2000 season.
Eric Staal scored his third goal of the season and fifth in five games against Pittsburgh the last two seasons when he swiped the puck off Penguins rookie defenceman Kristopher Letang’s stick and put it past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a single motion about 2 1/2 minutes in.
Jordan Staal, an 18-year-old Penguins rookie playing against his older brother for the first time in the NHL, did not score one game after getting his first NHL goal.
Walker’s first goal of the game came less than a minute after forward Trevor Letowski was carried off on a stretcher, leaving behind a pool of blood on the ice from a gash on his forehead. Letowski was leveled on a blindside hit by Pittsburgh’s Colby Armstrong moments after making a pass and lay motionless for several minutes.
Letowski, in his eighth NHL season, was playing again after being a healthy scratch Friday. Despite apparently being knocked unconscious briefly, he could move his hands and legs and spoke to a Penguins doctor before leaving Mellon Arena. He was groggy upon arriving at a hospital, but could answer questions from doctors.
Carolina forward Erik Cole did not score in his first game in Pittsburgh since breaking his neck while being rammed into the boards from behind by Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik on March 4. Cole, who had scored his 30th goal of the season earlier in the game, missed the rest of the season and did not return until Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Carolina goalie Cam Ward stopped 25 of 26 shots.
Pittsburgh, outscored 7-1 at home in losing its last two games there this season, tried to get back in it by holding Carolina without a shot during a two-man advantage that lasted one minute, 57 seconds in the second period. But one second after the second penalty expired, Walker got his second goal of the game and third of the season by redirecting Whitney’s pass past Fleury.
Fleury was lifted three minutes later with a cut near an eyebrow after allowing three goals on 20 shots. Jocelyn Thibault replaced him for his first game action since undergoing hip surgery in January.
The Letowski injury occurred a night after Carolina, already missing forward Cory Stillman and defenceman Frantisek Kaberle with shoulder injuries, had forward Andrew Ladd (arm) and defenceman Bret Hedican (upper body) go down against Atlanta. Hedican apparently injured a shoulder, but his status is uncertain.
Mike Commodore added his first goal of the season in the third period and had an assist. Whitney had two assists.
Notes: The Staal vs. Staal matchup isn’t likely to be repeated since Pittsburgh is expected to send Jordan Staal back to his junior team before his NHL contract would kick in at 10 games.