Guentzel starts trip right way
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ever since the Ducks won 4-2 in Pittsburgh on Dec. 17, the Penguins have been almost unbeatable and Anaheim hasn’t been able to win again anywhere.
When the Penguins got a rematch in Orange County on Friday night, Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel made sure both teams continued on the same trajectories.
Guentzel scored three times, Kessel got the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period and Pittsburgh rallied from an early three-goal deficit for a 7-4 victory over the Ducks, sending Anaheim to its 10th consecutive loss.
Tanner Pearson scored the tying goal midway through the third and added another with 3:25 left for the Penguins, who roared back with a four-goal third period for their 10th win in 11 games since that home loss to Anaheim. The Penguins didn’t think they deserved to be down 3-0 after the first period, and they swiftly showed why.
“We played a pretty good game,” Sidney Crosby said. “I know it was 3-0, but we still felt like we did some good things in the first period. … I think we just kept going the same way. We didn’t get away from our game or open up too much.”
Matt Murray stopped 21 shots, Evgeni Malkin added a goal and three assists, and Kessel had three points in a bountiful performance by Pittsburgh’s offensive stars. Guentzel scored two goals in the second period and added an empty-netter to wrap up his second hat trick of the season in a wild opener to Pittsburgh’s five-game West Coast road trip.
“I think it’s a good confidence-builder for us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re just hard to defend against. We have threats throughout our lineup. That’s the sign of a good hockey team, when you get different contributions at different times.”
Jakob Silfverberg scored a go-ahead, short-handed goal late in the second period, but the Ducks dropped to 0-7-3 since that win in Pittsburgh last month.
John Gibson made 29 saves against his hometown team, but was shredded in the third period along with Anaheim’s struggling defense.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said he’s never been through a losing streak to compare with his team’s current malaise.
“We just stopped playing” in the second period, Carlyle said. “It looked like we were out of gas. They were in a faster gear than we were. It seems like when we have to reach back for more energy or stiffness with our group, we’re unable to do it. We just seem to be lacking energy.”
Nick Ritchie, Ryan Getzlaf and Daniel Sprong scored in the first period, but the Ducks couldn’t maintain their start. Guentzel scored twice and Malkin got another as the Penguins erased Anaheim’s lead in an 11-minute span of the second period.
Pittsburgh then trailed 4-3 midway through the third before Pearson and Kessel scored 48 seconds apart. Kessel put the Pens ahead by taking the puck away from Jacob Larsson and shrugging off the defenseman’s checks to score on his own rebound.
Both of these longtime playoff contenders got off to slow starts this season, but only Pittsburgh has managed to maintain its recovery.
Although the Ducks’ four goals matched their total from their previous four games combined, Anaheim’s overall slump shows no signs of abating after an 0-3-3 homestand.
“We had it going early for a change tonight, and it was a good first period,” Ritchie said. “We get a three-goal lead and fall apart, I guess. We get some penalties, and their power play is good. We made it pretty easy on them. It doesn’t help taking penalties, and they kind of got the momentum. You can’t fall asleep against a team like Pittsburgh.”
Notes: Crosby had one assist and didn’t record a shot on goal, but Sullivan praised his dominant performance. … Sprong was traded from Pittsburgh to Anaheim last month for defenseman Marcus Pettersson. He has six goals in his first 5¢ weeks with the Ducks. … Guentzel recorded his fourth multi-goal game of the year and secured his second career 20-goal season. … Pittsburgh scratched Patric Hornqvist, who incurred an apparent concussion in Tuesday’s win over Florida. … Anaheim scratched forward Pontus Aberg for the second straight game. He was tied for the team lead with 11 goals, but hasn’t scored in his last seven appearances.