The Anaheim Ducks ended the Pittsburgh Penguins four-game win streak, Wednesday night, 5-3 at the Honda Center. The game was wide-open from the opening faceoff, but the Penguins imploded in the second period–Anaheim scored three goals in 5:07, including Chris Wagner’s shorthanded marker.
Sidney Crosby had a pair of assists. He has multiple points in five straight games.
Most East-West battles begin slowly but the Penguins and Ducks combined for 17 shots in the first 10 minutes. Penguins rookie netminder Tristan Jarry was phenomenal early. Jarry started in place of Matt Murray, who is home in Ontario dealing with the death of his father.
Late in the first period, the “Crash, Boom, Bang” (Malkin, Hornqvist, and Hagelin. We’re still trying to make it stick) line lit the lamp again. Carl Hagelin’s dogged puck pursuit and forecheck created a turnover behind the Ducks net. Patric Hornqvist was on the wall for the loose puck and quickly put it on Evgeni Malkin’s stick. Malkin (20) buried the puck under the blocker of John Gibson from 15 feet. 1-0.
Then, the Second Period Happened.
A four goal explosion from the Ducks started at 4:17. Anaheim center Rickard Rakell (16) tipped in a Francois Beauchemin wrister and tied the game at 1.
One minute later, Jake Guentzel got tied up with Jarry at the side of the net. Former Devil, Adam Henrique (10) took advantage for an easy wrap-around goal. Henrique buried the puck in the yawning net with the back of Jarry’s jersey four feet ahead of him.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan shuffled Crosby through the lineup and it did create a spark. For a moment, Sullivan reunited of the original “Sid and the Kids” line and slid Crosby between Sheary and Kessel (skipping Guentzel). That momentum was short lived, however. The vaunted Penguins power-play gave one back.
A sloppy zone entry allowed the Ducks to quickly clear it to center. Jakob Silverberg checked Kris Letang before Letang controlled the puck, which freed Wagner (6) for a shorthanded breakaway goal. 3-1.
Late in the second period, the Ducks scored another breakaway goal. Olli Maatta’s shot deflected off of the logo on Ondrej Kase’s sweater to center. The only Penguin around the speedy winger at that point was Jarry. Kase deked to the backhand. 4-1
Penguins Made a Run
Midway through the third period, the Penguins power play quickly took advantage of Corey Perry’s interference minor. You know the script: Crosby to Kessel in the right wing circle. Kessel’s (21) lethal wrister beat Gibson on his glove-side. 4-2.
With six minutes remaining, Jake Guentzel scored another Penguins power-play goal. Guentzel (14) came late on the play and one-timed a Kessel pass from the slot. 4-3.
Despite a valiant effort and seemingly an endless amount of posts hit, the Ducks Hampus Lindholm scored an empty net goal as time expired. 5-3.
Jake’s Spot Analysis
–The Penguins had high points, including converting two of four power plays against the 6th best penalty kill in the league. The Penguins power play is just that good. There isn’t a diagram or tactic which can stop it. As Mike Sullivan said last week, “sometimes, even we don’t know what they’re going to do.”
–The Penguins did not get the lucky bounces. Twice during the waning moments, Penguin possessions ended with hitting the post.
–Daniel Sprong did not see the ice in the 3rd period and played just 8:33. Sullivan gave the dreaded postgame explanation, he “went with the guys who were going.” This is Sprong’s first small taste of adversity since being called up December 30. It will be interesting to see how he handles it tonight in Los Angeles.
–Another thing to watch is Guentzel’s ice time at center. Sullivan has been limiting Guentzel’s time in the middle by double shifting Crosby and by putting Guentzel on the wing, skipping the “third line”. Wednesday wasn’t a great night for Guentzel, despite his power-play goal.
–The identity of the Penguins has been the resilience. It was evident Wednesday night. The Penguins were dominated during the second period but the game ended even in shots, 33-33.
The Penguins look to bounce back tonight at 10, as they meet Los Angeles Kings.