PITTSBURGH (AP) — Carolina rookie Elias Lindholm scored twice for the first multi-goal game of his career and the Hurricanes dominated the listless Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Eric Staal and Justin Faulk also scored for Carolina while Jeff Skinner added two assists. Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots as the Hurricanes avoided being swept in the season series by Pittsburgh for the first time in 18 years.
The Penguins wasted a chance to wrap up the Metropolitan Division title.
Chris Kunitz scored his 35th goal to give Pittsburgh an early lead, but the Penguins crumbled over the final two periods. Sidney Crosby picked up an assist to push his NHL-leading point total to 100, but Carolina held the otherwise potent Pittsburgh offense in check.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves, but received little help playing behind a sloppy defense.
The Penguins spent the game’s first 10 minutes seemingly intent on wrapping up a second straight division title before heading west for a three-game road trip beginning Thursday in Winnipeg.
Pittsburgh recorded 12 of the first 14 shots, including Kunitz’s wrist shot from the left circle that Khudobin never saw. Crosby picked up the secondary assist to lift his point total to the century mark for the fifth time in his career, drawing a roar from the usual sellout crowd at Consol Energy Center.
It had all the makings of a blowout.
One developed, just not the one the Penguins were expecting.
Carolina steadied itself late in the first, evening the game on a knuckling slap shot by Faulk that gave the Hurricanes the confidence boost they needed to get back in it. The Penguins’ malaise did the rest.
Lindholm put Carolina in front to stay 9:24 into the second with a power-play goal that included a pretty feed from Skinner, who threaded a pass between Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta’s legs right to Lindholm’s stick.
Fleury never had a chance. The goaltender was equally helpless five minutes later when a turnover by teammate Deryk Engelland handed Skinner and Lindholm a breakaway that Lindholm converted into the first multi-goal game of his brief career.
Any late push by the Penguins ended when Staal’s tip-in eluded Fleury with just over 8 minutes left.
Instead of skating off the ice with their fourth division title since Crosby’s arrival in 2005, Pittsburgh trudged to the locker room wondering when the consistency that propelled them to the top of the Eastern Conference before the Olympic break will return.
The Penguins are just 8-8-2 since Crosby led Team Canada to gold in Sochi.
NOTES: Carolina played without F Alexander Semin, who was scratched due to an illness. … The Hurricanes return home to face Dallas on Thursday. … The Penguins are 45-8-4 this season when Crosby scores a point.