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Pens/Ducks Recap: Pittsburgh completes California comeback, wins 7-4

The Pens score 4 goals in the 3rd period to win big in Anaheim

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins battled through adversity and made comebacks to win 7-4 against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.

Early on, it was looking like the game was getting away from them. Just 1:27 into the game Jack Johnson couldn’t tie up his man at the net and Nick Ritchie scored a tap-in. Not long after Ryan Getzlaf made it 2-0 after Matt Murray failed to seal off the short-side of the net and the puck snuck through him. Ex-Penguin Daniel Sprong made Anaheim’s lead 3-0 later in the first period.

What was Mike Sullivan’s first intermission speech?

“We have a lot of hockey left,” Sullivan said after the game. “We have the firepower to come back. Let’s just stay with it. Let’s not become a high-risk team, play within ourself and stick to the game plan and we can comeback.”

The team responded to their coach, they started the second on a power play and scored just 59 seconds into the period, shortly after the PP expired. Evgeni Malkin beat John Gibson after a nice pass from Phil Kessel from behind the net.

Then Jake Guentzel got his first goal of the night to make it 3-2.

Guentzel would get his second of the night and 20th of the season on the power play to tie the game at 3 after Gibson kicked out a rebound of a Kessel shot.

Pittsburgh wouldn’t get out of the period tied though, as they gave up yet another goal while on the power play to Jakob Silfverberg which would send Anaheim up 4-3 with 20 minutes to play.

In an interview for TV between periods Brian Dumoulin ended up saying some prophetic words.

“The more time we spend in the o-zone, the better we’ll be,” Dumoulin said. “We have to keep the puck out of our end zone. We have to stay on the attack. They are getting tired. If we keep up the pressure, we’ll have some success there in the third.”

The Pens were able to accomplish all of this, out-shooting Anaheim 14-7 in the third and able to wear down the defense and Gibson enough to out-score them 4-0 in the period as well. In less than a one minute stretch towards the middle of it, the Pens would pull even and then pull away. Tanner Pearson scored to tie the game at 4.

And then Phil Kessel struck on this unassisted goal after harassing Jacob Larsson which would eventually stand as the game winner and push the Pens up 5-4.

Pearson would score again to make it 6-4 to add some insurance and then Guentzel completed his hat trick with an empty net goal to leave no doubt and salt the game away at 7-4.

In the end for Sullivan, all is well that ended well.

““I think it’s a good confidence builder for us. It’s certainly a character win. I give our players a lot of credit for their sticktuitiveness.”

Some Thoughts

  • The Crosby line was really solid early. Gibson absolutely robbed Bryan Rust from right in front on a bang-bang play off a pass from Sid. That line nearly started the comeback earlier on.
  • The breakout performance we’ve been waiting for from Malkin. He only played 15 minutes but had 7 total shot attempts (including 4 on net). 4 point night. Nice to see Pearson jump up and be productive on that line too.
  • Kessel was instrumental on the comeback too with a 3 point game. His work on the forecheck was clutch, including the GWG. Great effort from Phil in this one.
  • Guentzel’s up to 21 goals on the season and just seems to be in the right place at the right time at all times. Team-high 7 shots on goal too.
  • Derick Brassard was a non-factor again. Only got 11:54 at ES and only 12:46 of ice time overall. That’s barely more ES time than Matt Cullen (10:59) got in this game. Brassard seems to be stuck in the vicious cycle of not doing much with his time, so he gets less time. But he’s not going to do more while getting less chances.
  • Be it circumstance or strategy, a lot of the Pens’ goals early on in the game developed from behind the net. Gibson was so good early it’s like they wanted to start out where he couldn’t see.

The Pens don’t have to travel far as they play in Los Angeles tonight, but they don’t have much time as they play on Saturday for a rare back-to-back this season.