Pens are unable to hold lead
PITTSBURGH — The Anaheim Ducks would love to stop playing from behind. It’s just not happening. And somehow it’s not a problem, either. Particularly on the road.
The Ducks spotted the Pittsburgh Penguins two first-period goals and then roared back for a 4-2 victory on Monday for their ninth win in 10 games. Adam Henrique and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist as Anaheim got its sixth straight road win, tied for the second-longest in franchise history.
“Sometimes when you get in other buildings, it’s tough when a couple bounces down go your way early,” Getzlaf said. “It’s a little bit of an uphill battle. I thought tonight, we did a good job of just staying with our plan, executing with the puck a little bit better obviously in the second period. We got going as the game went on.”
Ondrej Kase and Kiefer Sherwood also scored for the Ducks, who have won three straight over the Penguins. John Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, stopped 28 shots, including the final 24 he faced. He called Anaheim’s dominant second period — when the Ducks scored three times to move in front — perhaps its best of the season. Gibson did the rest of the work in the third, turning aside two Pittsburgh power plays to win his in hometown for the second consecutive year.
“We learned the team that we can be,” Gibson said. “I think we’re starting to put it together here now. Maybe it wasn’t the best start, but I think we just we have the ability to stay composed and know that we have the ability to come back.”
Evgeni Malkin got his 11th goal of the season for Pittsburgh and Bryan Rust added his sixth but the Penguins couldn’t cool off the Ducks. Casey DeSmith finished with 32 saves but lost for only the third time in his last 11 starts after letting a two-goal lead slip away for a third straight game. Pittsburgh recovered to beat Boston and Los Angeles last week. Not this time.
“If a team goes down a couple goals, they push back and that’s what they did,” DeSmith said. “Maybe next time just withstand it a little bit better and push back sooner.”
The Penguins have spent the last month slowly recovering from a sluggish start that at one point had them flirting with last place in the Eastern Conference. Yet even as they’ve pulled themselves back into contention — thanks in no small part to solid play by DeSmith — the Penguins are still sorting things out on the defensive end. Though they swept the Bruins and Kings over the weekend, games they won despite allowing a combined 92 shots.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan cautioned it’s not a formula that was sustainable. And for a brief stretch in the first period it appeared the Penguins were intent on buckling down. Pittsburgh jumped to a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Malkin 9:38 into the game and Rust followed with his fifth in four games when he jammed in a shot from the near post less than five minutes later.
However, deficits do little to deter the Ducks. Each of Anaheim’s previous nine victories came in games they were either tied or trailing heading into the final period. Anaheim didn’t wait that long this time to get back in it. The Ducks managed 19 consecutive shots during one stretch.
Henrique’s power-play goal 2:07 into the second got Anaheim going. Sherwood streaked down the slot, took a feed from former Penguin Carter Rowney and fired a wrist shot by DeSmith to even the score at 5:33.
Kase then put Anaheim ahead on a designed play off the faceoff. Getzlaf won a draw in the left circle in front of DeSmith and flipped the puck on net. Kase jumped on the rebound with 1:13 left in the second to give the Ducks the lead. Gibson made it stand up, fending off consecutive Pittsburgh power plays in the process.
“Our goalie played well and gave us a chance,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “And when you win the special teams battle you give yourself a chance to win in any building.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh fell to 6-1-1 against the Pacific Division. … Ducks F Daniel Sprong, traded from Pittsburgh to Anaheim in exchange for D Marcus Pettersson earlier this month, had an assist in 14:47. Pettersson skated 18:07 for the Penguins. … Pittsburgh D Kris Letang returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. … Anaheim won seven straight road games during the 2006-07 season. … The Ducks went 1 for 2 on the power play. The Penguins were 1 for 4.
Ducks: Continue a season-high six-game road trip on Tuesday in New York against the Rangers.
Penguins: Travel to Washington on Wednesday. The teams have split their first two meetings, both winning on home ice.