Saturday’s matinee between the Penguins and Hurricanes was brought to you by the number nine.
The Hurricanes scored nine seconds into both the second and third period, and the second of those goals gave Carolina the lead for good in a 4-3 win in Pittsburgh. The Hurricanes took a two-point lead in the Metropolitan Division with the win, beating the Penguins in the first meeting between the teams in nearly two years.
“I think we play a fair amount against each other in next few weeks and (it’s) in the division,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said, “It’s a lot of fun, two good teams going at it, and obviously the first one’s always good.”
The goal nine seconds into the third period gave the Hurricanes a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Jesper Fast converted a pass from Nino Niederreiter off of the third period’s puck drop for his 10th goal of the season for a 3-2 lead.
“A little broken play … but a really great pass by Nino,” Fast said.
The goal took the same amount of time as the one Carolina scored at the start of the second period.
Staal got his second goal in four games by starting the second period with a drive to the net, leading to the puck hitting him and bouncing past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry (26 saves) to give Carolina an early 2-0 lead.
“I’ll take it. I was telling the boys my left leg was due,” Staal joked.
The Hurricanes weren’t laughing when the Penguins erased Carolina’s lead by capitalizing on two breakdowns that led to Pittsburgh goals.
The Hurricanes got hemmed in their end with just over five minutes left in the second period but seemed poised to escape trouble when Carolina defenseman Ethan Bear got the puck behind the Carolina goal.
But Bear’s attempted pass to Seth Jarvis in the neutral zone was intercepted by Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang at the blue line, leading to Bryan Rust scoring off a rebound at 14:43 to halve the lead.
“We had the one bad shift and, of course, they score,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then they kind of got life and they took off. They got their game going.”
That led to another goal when Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo drifted too far from his side of the ice in the neutral one, leaving Sidney Crosby open on the left wing. The Penguins captain blasted a slap shot that beat Antti Raanta (31 saves) with 2:01 left in the middle frame to tie the game.
Fast’s quick goal to start the third period reinstated the Hurricanes’ lead, and Carolina got an insurance goal when Teuvo Teravainen set up Sebastian Aho for a one-timer on the power play that made it 4-2 at 14:18 of the third period.
The Penguins got a power play goal at 6-on-4 with Jarry on the bench with 72 seconds left, but Carolina held on to improve to 34-11-4 and get Raanta his 100th career win.
“I don’t think he’s gotten into his groove yet this year, and it’s nice to see him play really well against a really good team,” Staal said of Raanta.
A frantic first period led to only one goal, and the Hurricanes got it.
After winning a puck battle in the corner, Jesperi Kotkaniemi moved to the slot and got the puck back, scoring with a top-shelf shot that beat Jarry to make it 1-0 at 15:18 of the opening period.
The goal was Kotkaniemi’s second in as many games and 11th of the season, matching his career high from his rookie year in just 46 games.
“It’s been fun to get a couple of goals those last games — always brings the confidence up,” Kotkaniemi said.
Notes: The Hurricanes played most of the game with five defensemen after Brendan Smith was injured when blocking a shot in the first period. Smith appeared to be hit by the puck in the helmet or ear. … Brett Pesce played a season-high 28:03, just 15 seconds shy of his career high last April 22 at Florida. … Longtime Hurricanes forward Brock McGinn played his first game against his former team. He finished with two shots on goal and a minus-1. … Jarvis and Jordan Martinook assisted on Kotkaniemi’s goal, ending a seven-game point drought for both.