PITTSBURGH (AP) — Morgan Geekie scored twice and added an assist in his NHL debut and Justin Williams added two third-period goals and the Carolina Hurricanes surged past the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 on Sunday.
Jake Gardiner added a goal and an assist and Jaccob Slavin also scored for the Hurricanes, who pulled into a tie with Columbus and the New York Islanders for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Columbus plays in Vancouver on Sunday night.
Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 28 shots to earn the second win of his career for Carolina.
Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh and Tristan Jarry finished with 30 saves but the listless Penguins capped a miserable weekend at home by losing for the second time in 24 hours to teams they’re scrapping with for positioning in the crowded Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh headed into Saturday with some momentum after wins over Ottawa and Buffalo halted a six-game losing streak that marked the franchise’s longest in a decade. By Sunday afternoon the Penguins were reeling after getting manhandled by first-place Washington and following it up with a lethargic performance against one of the teams they are attempting to fend off for a playoff spot.
Pittsburgh has dropped 8 of 10 and is as close to missing the postseason as it is first place in the division with less than a month to go in the regular season.
The Hurricanes, by contrast, appear to be heading in the other direction. Just 24 hours removed from an overtime victory over the New York Islanders, Carolina backed it up by drilling Pittsburgh in the first of four meetings between the teams over the next three weeks.
Marleau, brought in from San Jose at the trade deadline to give the Penguins a dash of speed and grit, showed his 40-year-old legs still have plenty left midway through the first period. He sprinted down the slot after collecting a pass from Conor Sheary before beating Nedeljkovic with a backhand for his 11th of the season and first with Pittsburgh.
The 21-year-old Geekie — born in July 1998, nine months after Marleau reached the NHL as a teenager with the Sharks — tied it just 33 seconds later when he redirected a point shot from Gardiner. Malkin’s 23rd goal of the season with 3:27 left in the first pushed the Penguins back in front but the Hurricanes responded with a dominant second period.
Carolina’s hard work translated into the lead thanks to a pair of scores less than five minutes apart. Slavin’s innocent-looking floater from near the blue line knuckled past Jarry 13:07 into the second to even the score and Gardiner put the Hurricanes on top when his shot from high in the zone threaded through a sea of bodies and into the net. The Penguins offered no sustained response as the top two lines struggled to generate any consistent pressure.
When Williams deflected Haydn Fleury’s shot past Jarry 8:30 into the third to give the Hurricanes a two-goal lead, the Penguins appeared to sag and Nedeljkovic and Geekie did the rest.
NOTES: Geekie is the second player in Carolina history to score twice in his NHL debut, joining Brad Defauw, who did it on March 10, 2003. ... Penguins D Kris Letang played in his 807th game with the franchise, passing Jaromir Jagr for fourth place on the team’s career list. ... Pittsburgh put F Evan Rodrigues back in the lineup a day after making him a healthy scratch. F Sam Lafferty replaced Rodrigues as a healthy scratch. ... The Penguins also scratched Ds Chad Ruhwedel and Juuso Riikola and injured Fs Dominik Simon, Zach Aston-Reese and Anthony Angello. ... Carolina scratched C Ryan Dzingel and Gs Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. ... Hurricanes D Nino Niederreiter became the fourth Swiss-born player to appear in 600 NHL games. ... Pittsburgh dropped to 6-8 on the second day of back-to-back games. ... The Penguins were 1 for 7 on the power play. The Hurricanes were 1 for 4.
Hurricanes: Continue their five-game road trip on Tuesday against Detroit.
Penguins: Start a three-game road swing — all against Metropolitan Division opponents — on Tuesday in New Jersey.