Penguins clinch Atlantic by beating 'Canes 5-3
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Beau Bennett and Evgeni Malkin scored 13 seconds apart in the third period and the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched the Atlantic Division title by beating the free-falling Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 on Tuesday night.
Brenden Morrow scored his first goal with the Penguins, Robert Bortuzzo added a goal, and Pascal Dupuis had an empty-netter and two assists.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves for Penguins, who were without a handful of regulars — including captain Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Kris Letang — but still had plenty of timely firepower to hand the Hurricanes their club-record eighth straight home loss.
Joe Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti scored early goals for the Hurricanes, and Riley Nash put them up 3-2 exactly 2 minutes into the third.
Bennett tied it with 10:11 left by slipping a backhand past Justin Peters, and Malkin scored with 9:58 left by poking the rebound of Jarome Iginla's shot past Peters.
Dupuis scored into an empty net with 1.9 seconds left.
Peters made 28 saves for Carolina, which lost its sixth straight and for the 13th time in 14 games.
These teams have gone in opposite directions since their last meeting — a 4-1 Carolina win at home over the listless-at-the-time Penguins on Feb. 28.
Pittsburgh responded by winning 17 of 19, including a 15-game winning streak that ended last week, to take control of the Eastern Conference.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, descended into one of the worst slumps in club history — one that has enveloped nearly one-third of the compressed 48-game schedule.
Since taking a 2-0, first period lead against Washington on March 14 — a game they went on to lose 3-2 — the Hurricanes have been outscored 56-21. Carolina has gone from the top of the Southeast Division to near the bottom of the conference.
But some injured players began to trickle back into the lineup: defenseman Justin Faulk was activated from the injured list, and Alexander Semin returned after missing two games with an upper body injury.
Two Carolina defensemen — Sanguinetti and Corvo — scored off first-period faceoffs, with Sanguinetti's slap shot tying it at 2 with 4:27 left. Corvo struck first 4:06 in.
Bortuzzo tied it at 1 just 92 seconds after Corvo's goal when he went backdoor and scored off a pretty cross-ice pass from Pascal Dupuis. Morrow briefly put the Penguins up 2-1 with 6:11 left with his first goal with the Penguins, coming on an impressive effort in the slot.
When Nash scored with 18 minutes left, backhanding a rebound high past Fleury, it was his first goal since he had two against Washington on March 12.
But Bennett and Malkin scored in bang-bang fashion to keep the Penguins surging and the Hurricanes reeling.
NOTES: The Penguins have now beaten every team in the East this season. ... Carolina made room for Faulk by sending D Brett Bellemore to Charlotte of the AHL. ... LW Jussi Jokinen, traded by the Hurricanes to Pittsburgh at the deadline, assisted on Morrow's goal. Another former Carolina player, RW Craig Adams, had two assists.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter @JoedyAP.