RALEIGH — One losing streak had to end. Another had to continue.
Thats what was facing the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at PNC Arena. One team would leave the ice happy and relieved and the other searching for answers.
The Penguins won 3-1, ending a three-game losing streak. The Canes lost their third in a row, falling to 4-5-3 and dropping five points behind the Pens, who lead the Metropolitan Division.
Sidney Crosby, as he so often is, was the Pens leader. While rookie forward Jayson Megna was named the games first star after scoring his first NHL goal and adding an assist, Crosby again was the games biggest star.
Crosbys crisp cross-ice pass set up Chris Kunitz for the winning goal late in the second period. His shot early in the third glanced off Megna and past Canes goalie Justin Peters for a 3-1 lead.
Theyve got a lot of guys who have been to the (Stanley Cup) finals and played in big games, Canes coach Kirk Muller said. In the third period, when they got the lead, they know how to play the game and shut teams down.
But Im more concerned that we kind of got pushed out of the game. They played a heavier game than we did. They won more battles and they grinded it harder and their big boys at the end of the night were on the score sheet.
Crosby entered the game as the NHLs top scorer with 18 points. But defenseman Brooks Orpik was the Pens top scorer Monday with three assists while Tanner Glass had a first-period goal.
The Canes goal came from Nathan Gerbe on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period, which ended 1-1. Gerbe, playing his 200th career game, took a pass in the slot from Elias Lindholm who notched his first NHL assist and beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
But that was it. The Canes had other chances but couldnt finish as Fleury closed with 20 saves and the Pens defense was active and positionally sound.
Glass struck first on the rebound of a Megna shot after Crosby won a faceoff to Orpik, who whipped a pass to Megna breaking down the right wing. On the Pens second goal, Kunitz won a race against the Canes Jordan Staal to one-time the puck past Peters for his fifth of the season.
Their big boys came up big and some of our guys have to start contributing, Muller said.
Muller put Gerbe on the top line with Eric Staal and Semin, and Gerbe had five of the Canes 21 shots. Semin, who extended his point streak to four games, had three shots and another five attempts that either were blocked or missed the net.
Sometimes we got away from our game, but overall I thought we played well, but we have to score on our chances and power plays, Gerbe said.
The Canes received a scare in the third period when Jordan Staal collided with Kunitz, spun and fell to the ice. Staal was helped to the dressing room but soon returned to the game.
But the Pens (8-4-0) were in charge by then. Defenseman Rob Scuderi missed the game with an injury, but Orpik, Paul Martin, rookie Olli Maatta and others on the back end were quick with their sticks, and Crosby was everywhere on the ice.
Theyre a tough team. They lock it down pretty well, Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey said. For everyone who thinks theyre as offensive as they are, you saw that once they take a little bit of a lead, they dont take too many chances.
The Canes played without top scorer Jeff Skinner, out a second game with an upper-body injury. Skinner may return Friday against Tampa Bay, Muller said.
Were not giving up much, Muller said Its just when we do the good players capitalize on us. We need more from other people as well. Certain guys are there to produce but there are other guys who have to start bringing something to the table.
When you play a team like Pittsburgh, you cant play an average game. Youve got to bring more. We were light tonight.