Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins fend off Carolina Hurricanes

By Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Josh Archibald (45) races Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Lee Stempnaik (21) to the puck in the second period of the Penguins 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on April 2, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
1 of 2 | Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Josh Archibald (45) races Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Lee Stempnaik (21) to the puck in the second period of the Penguins 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on April 2, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins' power play hadn't exactly been living up to that description lately, but Pittsburgh scored on both of its man-advantage chances Sunday en route to a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PPG Paints Arena.

Conor Sheary's third-period, power-play goal gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead and held up as the winner. The Penguins were 4-for-25 with a man-advantage (16 percent) in their previous nine games.


"We've been struggling a little bit on the power play," said Sheary, who lofted a shot off of a feed from Patric Hornqvist at 5:07 of the third.

"I think we took advantage of a couple breakdowns. It was a good 2-on-0 rush there off the breakout and a breakdown in the neutral zone that I eventually scored on. So, I think just taking advantage of opportunities was the key."


Pittsburgh has a two-game winning streak after a four-game losing skid (0-2-2). The modest winning streak helps the Penguins (48-19-11) remain in position for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Their win and Columbus' loss to Washington allowed the Penguins to leapfrog the Blue Jackets and take over second place in the Metropolitan Division by one point. The Penguins are five back of the division-leading Capitals.

The Blue Jackets visit PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.

Conversely, the loss left Carolina's playoff hopes running on fumes. The Hurricanes (35-29-14) are seven points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with four games left despite a desperate push lately. They were playing less than 24 hours after a loss to Dallas that halted a franchise-record stretch of 13 games with at least a point (9-0-4).

"(Saturday) night was tough, and to come in here against a pretty good team, we're still fighting and still trying to get every point possible," said Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk, who scored a fluky goal for the Hurricanes. "It was a pretty good effort by the guys. We didn't really sit back too much and we were still trying to play our game, which is huge."


Even with the short time between games, Carolina seemed to have a lot of energy late and set up in the Penguins end for much of the waning minutes in a scramble to try to tie it.

"It's a quick turnaround," said forward Jeff Skinner, who scored Carolina's first goal. "It can be a positive, or it can be a little bit tough, but I think early on, we did a good job of everyone getting involved. All four lines were going early on. We just couldn't find that one at the end I think. ... Guys battled hard."

That's how the guy who had to thwart those late attempts saw it, too.

"They were throwing everything at the net and getting a lot of traffic (late in the third)," said Pittsburgh's Matt Murray, who made 33 saves and became the 13th rookie goalie to reach 30 wins since the 1967-68 expansion.

"It made my job pretty difficult, seeing pucks. Definitely had a hard time battling through traffic on some of those point shots. They were playing a playoff type of game. They played really well. I'm just glad we got the two points at the end of it."


Eddie Lack stopped 23 shots for the Hurricanes, his first game action since he left the March 27 game against the Detroit Red Wings on a stretcher for what turned out to be a strained neck.

Pittsburgh opened the scoring with Jake Guentzel's power-play goal at 11:28 of the first. He had the equivalent of a layup for a one-timer behind Lack, off of a feed from Chad Ruhwedel.

The Hurricanes tied it at 13:21 of the third when Skinner scored his 13th goal in his past 15 games. He poked the puck over the line behind Murray, who was above the crease after stopping a shot by Elias Lindholm, who lunged to get to his rebound and pushed it toward Skinner at the far post.

Scott Wilson restored Pittsburgh's lead, 2-1, when he swatted the puck past Lack with a backhand during a scramble in the crease at 7:50 of the second. It was his first goal in 15 games.

After Sheary scored, Carolina pulled to within 3-2 on an unconventional power-play goal. A shot by Faulk sailed over the net, bounced off the glass and back to the front of the net, where it glanced in off of Murray at 9:38 of the third.


"That's probably the worst bounce I've ever had against me in my entire life," Murray said. "The thing was, I couldn't see it when he shot it. If I had been able to track it, I might have been able to make a play on it off the glass, but I didn't know where the puck was until I heard it hit the glass. By then, it was too late. For whatever reason, it came off the glass pretty hot. By the time I reacted, it had already hit me in the back. Just chalk that one up to pretty bad luck."

NOTES: Pittsburgh C Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 43 goals, was held without a point. ... Coach Mike Sullivan said the latest addition to Pittsburgh's injury list, LW Chris Kunitz, is out "longer term" because of a lower-body injury he suffered Friday. ... Sullivan reiterated that D Kris Letang, who missed his 17th game because of an upper-body injury, could still return for the start of the playoffs. ... The Penguins' healthy scratch was D Cameron Gaunce. ... Carolina scratched D Ryan Murphy and C Jay McClement.


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