Hurricanes end 2014 with 2-1 loss to Penguins

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

PITTSBURGH, PA. – The Carolina Hurricanes gave up late-period goals and fell 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Wednesday.

It was not the way they wanted to ring in the New Year.

Eric Staal scored Carolina’s lone goal, his second in as many games, while Chris Kunitz and former Hurricanes center Brandon Sutter provided the offense that Pittsburgh needed to end a recent four-game winless streak.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury posted his 20th win of the season and made 24 saves, while Carolina’s Cam Ward made 37 stops in the losing effort, as the Pens outshot the Hurricantes 39-25.

Both teams’ penalty kill units thwarted three power plays apiece as each played a physically engaged game with 55 total hits dished out throughout.

Staal’s goal put Carolina ahead at 9:12 of the first period, but Kunitz evened the score 1-1 with 22 seconds remaining in the frame.

Both teams played a scoreless, yet penalty-filled second period.

They remained even through most of the third period until Sutter snapped a shot past Ward’s right shoulder with 1:42 remaining to score the eventual game-winner.

The loss was Carolina’s third in a row and ninth out of its last 12 games in which it hasn’t posted more than one goal in a game.

The shortfall in offense left the obvious resolution the team must make and follow through on for 2015 and the rest of the season.

“We gotta’ get beyond one, obviously, right?” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.

“So we get a little wiggle room, a breakaway when it’s 1-1. You have some chances, you’ve got two power plays in the third, you’ve gotta’ get more than one.”

Following the game, Carolina announced that it would not practice on Thursday, while returning home to play its next game at PNC Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.

Notes: After making his season debut in a 3-1 loss to Montreal on Monday, center Jordan Staal was kept out of the lineup against Pittsburgh as a precaution after falling awkwardly on his injured leg late in the game against the Canadiens…Carolina’s inability to hold on for a point came at the hands of a Penguins team that has found a way to record at least one point in 10 of 14 games during the month of December (7-4-3) despite averaging 8.5 man-games lost to injury per contest…In addition to keeping Staal out, the Hurricanes’ own injury woes continued as defenseman Ryan Murphy was recalled from Charlotte on Tuesday while defenseman John-Michael Liles was placed on IR the same day….While the Penguins (23-9-5) maintained their hold on first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Hurricanes’ (10-23-4) loss put them in a tie for last place overall with Edmonton.