Hurricanes dominate Penguins 4-1

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 1, 2014 at 9:45 pm •  Published: April 1, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading to the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

Barring an epic collapse, a Metropolitan Division title is all but clinched.

What happens after that, however, is anybody's guess.

Dominant in the beginning but dismal at the end, the Penguins let a chance to clinch their second straight division crown slip away in a 4-1 loss to Carolina on Tuesday night that left Pittsburgh just 8-8-2 since returning from the Olympic break.

Not exactly the kind of momentum a Stanley Cup contender wants to bring into the final days of the regular season.

"If you're not 100 percent, they can expose you and make you look pretty silly," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "That's what happened here tonight."

Carolina rookie Elias Lindholm scored twice for the first multi-goal game of his career, Eric Staal and Justin Faulk also scored 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.

"I thought we kept it simple and kind of slowly frustrated them as it went on and it was a win we needed," Staal said.

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 the Penguins appeared to lose interest after failing to bury the Hurricanes during a frenetic opening barrage in which they appeared ready to run Carolina out of the arena.

"We all felt like the first 10 minutes we were carrying the play ... for whatever reason we got away from that," Crosby said. "Maybe we thought that came easy or we could get away with cheating. And it didn't work."

No, it didn't.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves, but received little help playing behind a sloppy defense. The Penguins turned it over 13 times, including a series of miscues the Hurricanes were only too happy to turn into goals.

"I think we started mismanaging the puck and started having turnovers in the neutral zone," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.

The Penguins appeared to right the enigmatic final third of their season with a spirited 4-1 victory over Chicago on Sunday night.