RALEIGH — Losers of two straight and coming off three games in which they didn’t seem like themselves, the Hurricanes needed something to snap them out of their dog days of the season funk.
Enter the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team chasing the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division.
The Hurricanes fell behind two goals but — led by captain Jordan Staal’s two goals, Vincent Trocheck’s feistiness and Andrei Svechnikov’s winning power play goal — rallied to beat the Penguins 3-2 in overtime in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 19,023.
“We needed an emotional game, I think,” Staal said. “Usually when we come in this building, the fans are definitely into it, especially against this team.”
After Trocheck goaded Penguins defenseman Kris Letang into a slashing penalty in overtime, Carolina sent out four forwards for the ensuing 4-on-3 power play. It took only 27 seconds for the Hurricanes to end it, with Sebastian Aho setting up Teuvo Teravainen for a one-timer that led to a rebound in front. Svechnikov shoveled it in to complete the comeback.
“It was a great effort by everybody, just hands down,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It was no passengers and everyone was playing their hardest. It doesn’t always work out, as we know, but tonight we got what we deserved.”
There wouldn’t have been an overtime without Staal, who willed his team back into the game after the Penguins went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead following goals by Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby.
The Hurricanes came out of the intermission with a renewed resolve, and an early hit by Svechnikov got the crowd — which had its share of Penguins fans — back into the game.
During a grinding shift with linemates Nino Niederreiter and Jesper Fast, Staal won a battle behind the net and then got in front. Niederreiter attempted to stuff the puck past Casey DeSmith (39 saves) on the far side, and the rebound kicked out to Staal in the slot. He shot through two Penguins defenders and scored to make it 2-1 at 4:20 of the middle frame.
“That’s what those two guys do,” Staal said of his linemates. “They hound pucks and they create havoc. It may not be the prettiest ones, but it’s tough to defend.”
Staal wasn’t finished.
After Pittsburgh’s Kasperi Kapanen failed to get the puck out of the zone, Carolina defenseman Ethan Bear quickly shot the puck toward the net. Staal, positioned in the high slot, got a piece of the shot and redirected it past DeSmith for his second goal of the night to make it 2-2 with 10:12 left in regulation.
“It comes at you a little quicker,” Staal said of tipping a shot that far from the net. “Just trying to get a piece of it really. I didn’t get much of it, it didn’t move a ton. Just enough to go in the net.”
It gave Staal two goals in a game for the first time in nearly a year — he scored twice in Dallas on April 27, 2021 — and improved his personal record to 16-1-1 when he’s scored twice in a game, including 7-0 with Carolina. The one loss? Nov. 12, 2011, at PNC Arena — when he was still playing for the Penguins.
“I remember,” Staal said with his eyes closed as he reminisced. “I scored on (Cam Ward) in that one. I remember that game. We’ve had a lot of battles between these two teams, and I think it’s only going to get better.”
The Hurricanes then got another boost, this time from Trocheck, who dropped the gloves with Mark Friedman with just over three minutes left in regulation. Following the third fight of his NHL career and first since Jan. 18, 2020, Trocheck fired up the crowd by waving his arms.
“Everyone was fired up after he did that. … It fired me up, for sure. Big time,” Svechnikov said of Trocheck’s fight and theatrics.
Then in overtime, he and Letang tangled behind the play and the Pittsburgh defenseman took it one step too far and was penalized. Trocheck was seen smiling in the aftermath, and then the Hurricanes got the last laugh with the power play winner.
“Everyone has different personalities in how they play and we want to be competitive,” Brind’Amour said, “but he’s got a little extra gear. That was what we saw tonight.”
The first 20 minutes had an “Oh no, not again” feel to it when poor puck management and blown assignments led to two Pittsburgh goals.
First, Martin Necas’ pass in the defensive zone was intercepted at the blue line, leading to Crosby powering his way through three Carolina defenders and centering a pass that eventually found its way to Guentzel for his 27th goal of the year and a 1-0 lead at 4:28.
Then just after a Niederreiter slashing penalty expired, the Penguins reloaded in their own end and came up ice with speed. Guentzel exploited a hole in the Hurricanes’ defense and found Crosby in the slot for a goal past Antti Raanta (22 saves) and a 2-0 lead at 13:53.
“Being down two against that team is tough,” Staal said. “We had to rebound and get going. … We found a way to tie it up.”
Notes: It was the third game this season in which Svechnikov had at least five hits and three shots on goal. Carolina has won all three. … Niederreiter hit the post twice and saw his two-game goal streak end. … The Hurricanes took only two minor penalties Friday, the seventh time this season they’ve taken two or fewer minors. Only one of the previous six came at PNC Arena.
Svechnikov addresses Russia-Ukraine conflict
Svechnikov, a native of Barnaul, Russia, made a brief statement following the game about the conflict in Ukraine. When I asked how he is staying focused with all the “outside noise,” he responded, “It’s a hard situation for sure, but I hope they’re gonna find a peaceful solution as soon as possible and that everything is going to be fine there.”