Apr 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Andrei Loktionov (8) carries the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland (5) defends during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Carolina Hurricanes won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pens Falter Against Canes; Crosby Gets 100th Point

Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins just didn’t have it.

Losing 4-1 to a very mediocre team, the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh failed to win, ending their three-game winning streak.

In the first period, the Penguins came out flying.

Spending some good quality time in the Hurricane’s zone, the Pens’ constant cycling created excellent scoring chances. And at the 9:01-mark, forward Chris Kunitz made the tired ‘Canes team pay. Kunitz scored the first goal of the game which was deflected off of a ‘Canes defender and past the goaltender Anton Khudobin.

Captain Sidney Crosby and forward Lee Stempniak added the helpers on the goal, earning Crosby his 100th point, marking the fifth time he’s accomplished that in his career.

However, just over five-minutes later, Carolina’ defenseman Justin Faulk blew a slapshot by Pens’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for the equalizer.

The period ended with the Pens just edging out the Canes in shots 14-to-11, but once again, the turnovers were the key. The Penguins turned the puck over four times with the Hurricanes giving it away on just three occasions.

The second period continued with more awful play from the Penguins.

Taking a trip to what seems to be James Neal’s vacation home in the penalty box, allowed for Carolina to capitalize on a power play chance at 9:24, with a goal from Elias Lindholm. The period was dominated by the ‘Canes, outshooting the Pens 12-to-6 and forcing three more turnovers.

One of those turnovers laid to rest behind Fleury at the 14:57-mark of the stanza, when Lindholm scored his second of the night. At 16:46, Carolina’ forward Nathan Gerbe took a slashing penalty against Brandon Sutter, but yet again, the Pens’ failed to score with the man-advantage.

The only plus side of the period is that the Penguins are winning in the hit and faceoff counts.

When the third stanza began, the hope was for a Penguins’ team to come out with a fight. All hopes were lost on that idea when the team seemed to pack it up and call it a night from the puck drop.

Even though Pittsburgh ended up out shooting Carolina 31-to-28, the six more turnovers showed that the Pens heads were not in the game. The giveaways continued to give the ‘Canes quality chances. And at the 11:47-mark, forward Eric Staal made the most of his chance by tipping an Andrei Lokionov-shot past Fleury.

The only exciting point for the struggling Penguins was at 17:13 of the third, when Crosby took exception to a hit from Jay Harrison and manhandled Harrison to the ice.

But in the end, it was Carolina who ended up on top via the scoreboard.

Analysis:

Basically, the Penguins came out and played the first 10-minutes of a 60-minute game. After that, they kicked back in the lawn chairs with umbrellas in their drinks and watched the last 50-minutes.

Turnover after turnover and players standing still in the defensive zone, continued to give the Hurricanes quality chances. These chances forced Fleury to make a lot of clutch saves in order to keep his team in the game. In all of the recent losses, the team has left “Flower” out to dry on numerous occasions.

Poor puck management, selfish infractions, a failing power play, and inconsistent play continue to be the downfall of this Penguins team. Injuries have nothing with the team’s play at this point. The team has been playing with call-ups all season, and everyone on any team is tired – it’s a long season.

At some point, someone has to step up and be a leader on-and-off the ice besides Crosby. Someone has to say enough is enough and begin to do things the right way. And when they falter, drop the gloves and spark their team. Going in the playoffs stumbling and crawling is not the momentum needed to carry a team through.

Get it together Pitt.

The Pens’ next game will be Thursday, Apr. 3, against the Winnipeg Jets. It can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 8 p.m.

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