The Carolina Hurricanes weren’t lacking for motivation Friday.
Many of the heroes of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup champions are in town for a 10-year celebration. The opponent was the Pittsburgh Penguins, a Metropolitan Division team the Canes are chasing in the standings, trying to beat out for a playoff spot.
What the Canes needed Friday was a hero, someone to step up and win the game in overtime or the shootout. They came up empty, losing 2-1 as Pens defenseman Kris Letang had the only shootout goal.
Andrej Nestrasil’s goal late in regulation gave the Canes a 1-1 tie, a chance. And goalie Cam Ward was big in a fast-paced overtime, making some hustling, diving stops against the Pens’ Sidney Crosby and Carl Hagelin.
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But it wasn’t enough. Carolina, which played without injured defenseman Justin Faulk, couldn’t get another puck past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as Chris Terry, Phil Di Giuseppe and Elias Lindholm failed to score in the shootout.
Crosby and Chris Kunitz opened the shootout for the Pens (28-19-7) and were denied. But Letang, shooting third and up last, beat Ward with a nifty backhander under the crossbar to end it.
“Every game has been important for a while now,” Canes center Jordan Staal said. “It’s unfortunate the way that one ended. We did a good job of fighting back in it and getting a point but it is what it is with the ending and we’ll come ready to go (Saturday).”
The Canes (24-21-10) host the New York Islanders, another Metro team ahead of them in the standings. A special pregame ceremony will have the members of the 2006 Cup champions getting another chance to lift the old trophy, and there again should be much emotion with so many familiar faces — Erik Cole, Ray Whitney, Chad LaRose, Mike Commodore and others — in the building.
What was lacking much of Friday’s game was offense. There seemingly were more offensive chances in the five-minute, three-on-three overtime than 60 minutes of regulation.
The Canes had three power plays in the game and nary a shot. Nor did the Pens, who were missing injured center Evgeni Malkin, take a shot on their one power play.
After a scoreless first period, Phil Kessel gave the Pens a 1-0 lead in the second. In an ironic twist, Kessel scored off a pass from center Matt Cullen, a vital part of the Canes’ Stanley Cup run 10 years ago.
The Pens were shut out 3-0 Wednesday in their previous game as Crosby’s 11-game point streak ended. And it appeared Fleury might make the Kessel goal stand up until Nestrasil ripped a shot from the right circle with five minutes, 18 seconds left in regulation.
The Canes nearly took the lead with 97 seconds left in regulation as defenseman Noah Hanifin circled the net for a wraparound. Fleury, who had 29 saves, stopped Hanifin, then smothered a Jeff Skinner attempt off the rebound.
Faulk was injured Thursday in practice during a collision with forward Brad Malone along the boards, pinning a leg under him. He did some brief skating Friday and Canes coach Bill Peters said he was “close” to playing, adding Faulk was “day-to-day” and that he hoped Faulk could go Saturday against the Isles.
Faulk, an NHL All-Star this season who leads the team in points, had played 149 consecutive games.
Canes captain Eric Staal was the leading scorer on the 2006 champions and has enjoyed seeing his former teammates, but added, “To get a win would make it sweeter.”