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Not So Special Teams: Penguins Lose 5th Straight, 3-2 in Anaheim

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Anaheim Ducks

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks won’t need to practice their penalty killing for quite a while. The teams combined for 12 power play chances but Anaheim scored the only power-play goal as officials Garret Rank and Steve Kozari exerted the power of the orange. Penguins winger Jason Zucker scored a pair of goals including one with 80 seconds remaining to give the Penguins hope, but it was too little and too late

Anaheim dealt the Pittsburgh Penguins their fifth straight loss, 3-2 on Friday night at the Honda Center. The Penguins and are now in third place in the Metro Division and lead the New York Islanders by just two points for third place in the division. The Penguins have a six-point lead on the final playoff spot and have played fewer games.

But things are getting tense.

“Well, we’re not scoring goals, obviously,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s hard to win when you don’t put the puck in the net. Having said that, I don’t think it’s been from a lack of opportunities. The last couple of games, we’ve had a significant amount of scoring chances.”

With the extra attacker, Zucker (19) ripped a wrister past Anaheim goalie John Gibson from the left-wing circle. It was Zucker’s fifth goal with the Penguins.

The Penguins allowed just two shots in the first period. Unfortunately for the recently snakebitten Penguins, one of those shots was a point-blank shot by newly acquired Anaheim forward Danton Heinen. The hockey gods decided to rub a little salt in the wound as Heinen’s shut fluttered wide, but hit  Penguins defenseman Zach Trotman and deflected just over the goal line.

It wasn’t the last Trotman deflected a puck behind Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

“That’s how games go sometimes, you’ve got to find ways to win them however they workout,” Sidney Crosby said.

The Penguins did tie the game on one of their power plays to begin the second period. Referees assessed Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf a hooking penalty in the final minute of the first period, then an extra two minutes for not liking the call.

It wasn’t the last time a star player was given an extra two for complaining, either.

In the second of the two minors, the Penguins second-power play unit tied the game. Jason Zucker (18) perfectly deflected Marcus Pettersson’s point shot past Anaheim goalie John Gibson. It was Zucker’s fourth goal as a Penguins forward.

The attention-starved officials made the second period a special teams practice for both teams. The Penguins earned 12 penalty minutes with six minor penalties and Anaheim gave six minutes. The teams played approximately eight minutes at even strength.

In the middle of the second period, Anaheim scored their first power-play goal. Anaheim forward Sam Steel’s shot hit the crossbar, then Getzlaf (13) gave Anaheim the lead with a quick putback.

Late in the second period, Anaheim defenseman Brendan Guhle easily snared Trotman’s clearing attempt or errant pass through the middle of the ice. Guhle’s (3) shot then deflected off Trotman in front of the net.

The Penguins couldn’t muster a second goal against Anaheim, which is tied for the second-worst record in the Western Conference. In the middle of the third period, Zucker’s shot hit the crossbar it nearly caromed all of the way out of the offensive zone. That was as close as the Penguins got. Head coach Mike Sullivan also paired Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with Bryan Rust, but it wasn’t enough.

Murray, and Trotman’s leg, allowed three goals on 21 shots. The Penguins pulled the goalie with three minutes remaining. Pittsburgh native John Gibson stuffed the Pittsburgh Penguins attack. He stopped 26 of 28 shots and withstood the Penguins furious comeback attempt in the last minutes.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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