There was much excitement surrounding the first matchup of the season between both teams who were both looking to get back to winning after each losing their previous games.
The buildup to the game circulated around the fact that both Jordan Staal and Brandon Sutter would face off against their former teams for the first time since they were both involved in a deal back in June that swapped the jersey that each player would wear at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.
As both players fought to win the opening draw, Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller downplayed any thinking that the matchup was related to any of the pregame hype.
“It didn’t matter,” Muller said.
“It was more just to start Jordan. I figured that they’d be startin’ Sutter, but it was more just, it’s his (Jordan’s) game tonight, and he was definitely going to start no matter who it was (facing him), Crosby.. it didn’t matter.”
Tlusty’s double does it
As captain Eric Staal’s goal late in the period allowed the Hurricanes to skate to a 1-1 tie after the first period while outshooting the Penguins 13-9, Carolina kept up the pressure and exploded for three more during the next period of play.
Led by Jiri Tlusty (2 goals, 1 assist), Carolina took the lead just over four minutes in and followed that goal up quickly with one from Jeff Skinner, who played his first game since missing the past five due to a concussion injury.
With the second period nearing an end, Tlusty’s second goal of the game finished any further offensive output that either team would record, as they skated to a scoreless final period.
“We stuck with our game plan,” Tlusty said afterwards.
“That’s the key. If we can do that every single night, we have a chance to win a lot of hockey games.”
Back to even strength
Muller appreciated the benefit of having not only Skinner return to the lineup, but also forward Tim Brent and defensemen Jamie McBain and Tim Gleason who were able to play regular shifts against Pittsburgh.
“It’s nice getting some healthy bodies back,” he said.
“Not only healthy, but we were fresh. Some rested guys that gave us a chance to go with four lines, and use six D a little bit more. You could see the difference. It gave us a higher tempo and energy. Everyone came ready to play, all twenty games, so it was a big game for us.”
Playing by the numbers
Although both teams went scoreless on the power play with matching 0-for-5 results on the night, the Hurricanes were able to stay even with the Penguins during the first, a period that that they have fallen victim to trailing their opponents in more often than not so far this season.
Carolina’s scoring surge during the second period took advantage of Pittsburgh’s propensity to allow teams to score more goals than they do during the middle of the game, and allowed the Hurricanes to maintain their momentum evenly for the remainder of it.
In addition, goaltender Cam Ward’s effort in making 26 saves, particularly recording nine stops during the third period, was enough to hold Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Penguins scoreless until the final horn sounded to give the Hurricanes the win.