— Marc Andre Fleury had a rare night off and the Penguins (36-21-6, 78pts) could never recover, losing the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Friday night at the RBC Center.
Fleury gave up three goals on 11 shots and was pulled in the second period. Carolina attacked the Penguins offensively getting their defenseman involved as four Hurricanes defensemen recorded at least a point.
Pascal Dupuis (11) scored the Penguins only goal, his first since Jan 22.
— For the Penguins, they dropped their fourth straight game and have now lost 8 of 10. Is it time to start worrying? The Penguins remain 11 points up on the 8th seed but teams are starting to slowly creep up on Pittsburgh in the standings.
— Alexei Kovalev made his Penguins debut and the skill set is clearly still there for Kovalev. Some in the media are calling Kovalev’s performance a “mixed bag”.
Aside from a few turnovers in the neutral zone, at times in last night’s game he was dynamic on the ice, especially in the second period.
He clearly opened things up on the power play and set up some prime scoring chances that the Penguins couldn’t convert.
Watching Kovalev, you just hope Sidney Crosby can find a way to get back this season.
— The Neal – Staal – Kovalev unit did some good things as the game wore on. Neal played his most aggressive game this far in a Penguins uniform. Staal is use to playing with grinders, so it’s going to be an adjustment period for him.
— The same issue for the Penguins continues and that’s the inability to finish plays. Despite Carolina jumping on Pittsburgh early, the Penguins ended up dictating the play at times but again failed to put the puck in the net.
Pittsburgh has scored just 17 goals in their last 10 games.
— In watching Matt Niskanen over the past three games, I’m not surprised that the Penguins appear high on him. He has the type of abilities that Dan Bylsma is enamoured with in defenseman — as Niskanen possess good speed and a good shot.
— For a team that is offensively challenged, Bylsma needs to keep Brett Sterling in the lineup. Yes, his overall game is not NHL caliber but the guy can put the puck in the net and be another option on the second power play. However, his time in Pittsburgh is expected to be coming to an end with the new top-6 forward additions.
— Joe Vitale is becoming an impact player in the faceoff circle. He was 7 of 9 on draws against Carolina and is 15 of 17 on draws in his last two games.
— Pittsburgh faces Toronto tonight in a back-to-back matchup. A team very hot of late, fighting for a playoff spot. The Penguins will not have a morning skate.