- Matchup: Anaheim Ducks at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh; WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Jonas Hiller for Ducks.
- Penguins: Were 26-10-5 on home ice last season. ... RW Mark Recchi has three goals, 18 assists in 17 career games against Ducks. ... Have neither recorded nor allowed hat trick in 18 all-time games against Anaheim.
- Ducks: Are 4-1 in past five games overall against Penguins, 2-2 in past four at Mellon Arena. ... Allowed just one even-strength goal during first three games of season. ... Will be playing on consecutive days for second of 16 times this season.
- Hidden stat: Penguins have won just two of past 10 home openers.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- How easy it would be to write off the Penguins' 4-1 loss to Carolina in their season opener at the RBC Center last night as an abject disaster, devoid of redeeming qualities.
That's a real temptation, considering that a team with one of hockey's most volatile offenses could not generate a goal until long after the outcome was decided.
That Carolina seemed to get the better of individual battles on almost every shift.
That the Penguins are supposed to be learning how to win, but looked instead as if they had taken a crash course in losing. And aced it.
But there was at least one positive aspect to what the Penguins went through last night: Even though they have 81 games left in the regular season, odds are that they won't be beaten this badly very often. If ever.
"I don't know what it was," defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "There's no excuse. It's not like we played two days ago, or yesterday. We didn't show up to play."
Although goalie Marc-Andre Fleury clearly shared that assessment -- "I'm sure nobody wanted the first game to be like this," he said -- coach Michel Therrien and captain Sidney Crosby seemed to feel it was unduly harsh.
While acknowledging that the Penguins "[made] some bad decisions at times that cost us some goals" and took some costly penalties, Therrien volunteered that his team "came out with a lot of energy," and cited the 33-save effort of Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward as the decisive factor in the game.
Crosby pointed to the Penguins' advantage in shots during the second half of the game as a plus, although he also noted that the Penguins were guilty of missing some assignments and that they failed to get the puck deep into the Carolina zone consistently enough.
The Penguins got their only goal when Mark Recchi converted an Evgeni Malkin feed during a power play at 16:37 of the third period.
Fleury's night already was over by then; he had been replaced by Dany Sabourin after allowing four goals on 26 shots during the first two periods.
"I wasn't good at all," Fleury said.
In reality, though, Fleury seemed to be the primary culprit only on Carolina's first goal, which Eric Staal scored after Fleury failed to control a Tim Gleason rebound.
Rather than direct the puck toward the corner, Fleury kicked it into the right circle, where it bounced over the stick of left winger Jarkko Ruutu, after Staal pounced on it and threw it past Fleury at 7:08 of the opening period.
"A mistake," Fleury said.
Staal made it 2-0, quite by accident, at 13:21, when his backhander from near the right dot was sliding harmlessly through the slot -- until it struck the left skate of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, who was focused on tying up Hurricanes center Jeff Hamilton.
Carolina put the game away when Andrew Ladd fought off Penguins defenseman Darryl Sydor in front of the net and flipped a shot past Fleury at 14:11 of the second, and Hamilton rubbed it in by hammering a slap shot through traffic and past Fleury from the right point during a power play at 17:35.
The Penguins outshot Carolina, 15-7, in the final period. That did not alter the course of the game, but might have helped to set a tone for the Penguins' home-opener against Anaheim tonight at 7:38 at Mellon Arena.
"We played a lot better in the third," Recchi said. "We played more of the game we need to play."
Not that they accomplished all that much then, other than to deny Ward the opportunity to earn his third career shutout.
"Obviously, we know we have to be a lot better," Recchi said. "It's good for us. Unfortunately, we lost, but it's a good wake-up for us. We realize how hard it's going to be."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published October 6, 2007 4:00 AM