The Carolina Hurricanes got a quick goal on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins but lost the lead even more quickly and could never get it back.
Chris Kunitz and Robert Burtuzzo scored in the first 51/2 minutes, and Christian Ehrhoff netted the game-winner with 4:33 to play as the Penguins claimed a 3-2 victory at PNC Arena.
It was the second of back-to-back games between the teams. Carolina had won 4-2 on Friday night in Pittsburgh.
The Metro Division-leading Penguins improved to 16-5-2, and the Hurricanes fell to 7-13-3.
Justin Faulk and Elias Lindholm scored for Carolina, giving Faulk – who added an assist – 14 points (3G, 11A) in November. Victor Rask had two assists for the Hurricanes.
“The first period was a good period,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “They had a big goal on the shift after Faulk’s goal. We had the chance to play with the lead a little bit, and that didn’t happen. They capitalized on a bad line change in the neutral zone for their second one.
“I didn’t think we played as well as the game went along. I thought the energy was a part of it, but also the execution. We didn’t get pucks in behind their ‘D’ – they were able to get back in transition and kind of half-ice us a little bit and caught us in the game-winner.”
Pittsburgh’s Thomas Greiss (3-1-1) finished with 32 saves, and Anton Khudobin (0-5-2) stopped 30 shots.
“Our defense had two big goals from Bortuzzo and Ehrhoff,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said. “Those were key goals in a tight-checking game. Our battle level was certainly a lot higher than it was last night.
“Greiss played outstanding. You saw the saves he made on the penalty kill tonight. He was just great for us. Every game he’s been in, he’s given us a chance to win. Having a tandem like that (with Marc-Andre Fleury) really shows the depth of our organization.”
Former Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, now the executive vice president and general manager in Pittsburgh, attended Saturday’s contest along with Penguins vice president for hockey operations and former Carolina assistant GM Jason Karmanos.
The Penguins led 2-1 after a first period in which they outshot the Hurricanes 14-10.
Faulk got the Hurricanes on the board on a power play at 3:39 of the first, beating Greiss stick side on a one-timer from the left point with Rask and Nathan Gerbe – who was playing his 100th game as a Hurricane – on the helpers.
But that didn’t last long. The Penguins tied the score just 17 seconds later as Kunitz beat Khudobin stick side after Evgeni Malkin circled the net for the assist. Blake Comeau got the second helper.
The Penguins made it 2-1 at 5:32 as Bortuzzo scored with Paul Martin and Andrew Ebbitt assisting .
“Obviously you don’t want to give up a goal right after you score one,” Faulk said. “It drained some momentum out of us, but after they got their two goals it obviously didn’t go our way. I thought both goalies played really well, but that’s what you expect in this league.
“We need to be hard to play against at home. We’ve got to try and win as many at home as we can.”
Neither team scored in the second, with the Hurricanes outshooting Pittsburgh 14-11 during the stanza.
Ehrhoff followed his own rebound to stretch the Penguins’ lead to 3-1 at 15:27 with Olli Maatta on the only assist.
Lindholm lit the lamp on a power play at 19:48 with Rask and Eric Staal assisting.
The Hurricanes’ next game is at home Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, coached by former Carolina mentor Peter Laviolette, in the second of a five-game homestand.
Carolina’s next game with the Penguins is on the road on New Year’s Eve. Pittsburgh returns to PNC Arena on March 26.