RALEIGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby. The Carolina Hurricanes — well, they do not.
Crosby had three primary assists, Jake Guentzel scored on two of them and Matt Murray had 39 saves to lead the Penguins to a 3-0 win Saturday in front of 16,264 at PNC Arena.
“You look at the team we just played, they got a couple chances and you saw where the pucks went,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It was the top of the net, the spots you’ve got to put it in. That’s just something we’ve got to keep aspiring to do.”
Compounding Carolina’s problems was an offensive attack that seemed as out of sync as it has all season. The power play, in 7:36 with an extra attacker, finished with two shots on goal.
“For me, tonight was just summed up: Our power play was terrible,” Brind’Amour said. “And that’s our best players. That’s the time they need to make plays. And zero. So that, to me, was where the game, the momentum just shifted.”
That included indecision from top scorer Sebastian Aho, who consistently gave up shooting opportunities to instead pass on both the power play and at even strength.
“It does happen. When we’re not scoring, you’re looking for that better play,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s something we’ve talked about a lot trying not to do, but it’s tough when you’re not scoring. So they look to make a little cuter than it probably needed to be.”
The Penguins didn’t need to be cute — they just got down to work.
In the first, Crosby curled around the Carolina net, fended off Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk, and found Kris Letang at the left post to make it 1-0 at 8:41 of the first.
The Hurricanes appeared to tie the game late in the period, but defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s shot that was called a goal on the ice was negated because the puck hit the crossbar and did not go in.
“You look at our first period, we go out and we get, whatever, three, four Grade-A scoring chances. We don’t get it in,” winger Jordan Martinook said.
At the three-minute mark of the second, Crosby set up another goal from behind the net, finding Jake Guentzel for a one-timer past Carolina goalie Curtis McElhinney for a 2-0 lead. Guentzel then got another, again from Crosby, in the final minute of the period to extend the lead to three.
It could have been much worse without McElhinney (29 saves) who, starting his first game since Dec. 5, made several big stops that kept the score respectable.
Murray, meanwhile, earned his second shutout of the season and eighth of his career.
“He anticipates and squares up and makes difficult saves and makes a lot of instances look routine,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “They’re really not, but he makes them look that way when he is at his best, and I thought he did that tonight.”
Notes: Jordan Staal, in his second game back from a concussion, did not play the third period due to an upper-body injury. Brind’Amour said Staal took a hit to the head in the first period. … The Hurricanes recalled Clark Bishop and Janne Kuokkanen from Charlotte of the AHL following the game.