The Carolina Hurricanes played hard and for the most part played well Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Canes banged and hounded the puck. Ray Whitney scored twice and Cam Ward twice made spectacular saves to deny the Penguins a goal. Carolina gamely rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score and force overtime.
But the Hurricanes couldn't finish it off against the Stanley Cup champions. The Penguins took a 3-2 shootout victory at the RBC Center on Chris Kunitz' goal.
Jussi Jokinen scored for the Hurricanes in the shootout and Sidney Crosby did the same for the Pens in the second round. But in the sixth round, the Canes' Eric Staal was denied by Marc-Andre Fleury and Kunitz won it.
In the overtime, Ward gloved a blistering shot by the Pens' Evgeni Malkin from the slot. In the third period, he robbed Bill Guerin of a goal with another snatch just before the puck crossed the goal line.
Michael Rupp scored late in the first period, off a Malkin assist, and Malkin scored early in the second to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead. But Whitney answered, twice, for the Hurricanes.
The Penguins not only are off to a 6-1 start, but are 5-0 on the road after a fourth straight away victory. No other Pittsburgh team, even previous Cup winners, has opened a season by winning their first five on the road.
Much of the pregame focus was on Pittsburgh's four-game playoff sweep of Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals last season. The Penguins finished off the series with two wins at the RBC Center and played most of Wednesday's game in the same efficient fashion, making the most of their offensive chances while Fleury was solid in net.
But Whitney broke through at 4:25 of the third to make it a 2-1 game, off a nice setup pass from Tuomo Ruutu — Whitney's 100th goal with Carolina. And Ward then made the save of the game with 14:31 left, gloving Guerin's shot.
It was the kind of play the Pens routinely score on, with Crosby passing to Kunitz to Ward's left and Kunitz zipping the puck across to Guerin at the doorstep. But Ward made the play.
Whitney then tied it with 9:56 left, redirecting a Tim Gleason shot past Fleury. Both team had power-play chances later in the third but couldn't score.
In the first period, the Canes did everything they set out to do. They kept the puck in the offensive zone. They were physical. They didn't have a penalty.
And the Hurricanes still trailed, 1-0. On a Rupp goal.
For all the pregame talk about revenge for the playoffs, consider that Rupp played last season for the New Jersey Devils — the team the Hurricanes ousted in the first round. Maybe the fourth-line center had that on his mind in addition to helping his new team.
Rupp's score came after the Hurricanes blistered Fleury with shots, after Ruutu and Chad LaRose had huge forechecking hits that had the crowd roaring.
But when LaRose failed to glove a cross-ice pass by the Penguins, Malkin made a quick pass to Rupp. Rupp, who wears No. 17, then looked like No. 71 -- that man Malkin -- on a two-on-one, going forehand to backhand and flipping the puck past Ward.
No. 71 then struck early in the second for a 2-0 lead. Malkin rifled in a tough-angle shot from the right of the goal when Ward failed to seal the post on the short side.
The Canes and Penguins were the two most penalized teams in the league — Carolina 29th and Pittsburgh 30th. And while there was a quick pace, neither team had a penalty in the first period.
The Canes finally forced the first penalty at 11:13 of the second — a roughing call against Crosby, who went face-to-face with Rod Brind'Amour, captain against captain, in front of the Carolina net. But the Ruutu was called for hooking 12 seconds later to take away the man advantage with the Hurricanes badly needing a goal.
More Carolina penalties followed in the period — a hooking call against Aaron Ward, a high-sticking call against Stephane Yelle. Some hustle by the Canes' Jussi Jokinen resulted in a Penguins penalty to offset the Ward call, and Carolina killed off the Yelle penalty as Aaron Ward denied Guerin a rebound in front.
The Penguins, who put in a 90-minute practice Tuesday at the RBC Center, appeared to find their legs and sharpness as the game moved along. Their passes were crisper, their movement more fluid.
The Canes came out flying, getting the first five shots on goal and pressuring the Pens. But Fleury made some tough stops and the Pens weathered the early assault.
The Hurricanes now will need to play well on the road. Carolina plays the next four games, and five of the next six, away from the RBC Center to close out October.