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Penguins/Ducks Recap: Guentzel and Rust lead Pittsburgh’s comeback against Anaheim

The Penguins need to rally to defeat the lowly Anaheim Ducks, but find that rally behind a Bryan Rust last minute goal, and a Jake Guentzel OT goal

NHL: JAN 16 Ducks at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Note: there was some sort of (likely human) publishing error that caused a delay in this recap to publish. Our apologies!


The Penguins get a blueliner back for tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks with the return of Marcus Pettersson from an illness that kept him from playing in the prior two games. But Pettersson ends up replacing Jan Rutta in the lineup, who isn’t able to play tonight. Pittsburgh shuffles things up front by bringing up Jonathan Gruden from the AHL to make his NHL debut, kicking Jeff Carter over to the wing and Danton Heinen into healthy scratch territory.

PA native John Gibson is in net and leading the Ducks on the ice for their annual visit to Pittsburgh.

First period

Good start for the Pens, Ty Smith and Sidney Crosby are passing it around so much at one point it resembles a Pittsburgh power play, despite Anaheim having five players out there. The Penguins follow up that great shift with the second line, and birthday boy Jason Zucker has the motor going. As he fires around the net, Zucker was trying to pass the puck, but it deflected right back to him, so he went to plan B which was a wraparound. Good things happen when around the net. 1-0 Pittsburgh.

After a whistle, Kevin Shattenkirk gets aggressive with Teddy Blueger and the refs only take the Duck to the penalty box, awarding Pittsburgh the game’s first power play. The Pens don’t do much with it.

Jonathan Gruden flashes and hits the outside of the post with a shot in his first NHL period.

Casey DeSmith makes a sharp looking save on Trevor Zegras, and after the whistle these teams have been coming together and exchanging some verbal and physical barbs. This time, the refs give the Pittsburgh defender a penalty for protecting his net.

And Anaheim beats the No. 2 PK in the league. DeSmith stops a big shot from Troy Terry but leaves a big juicy rebound. Rookie Mason McTavish has a good look at that, but DeSmith scrambles and robs him. That action drew DeSmith out of the crease, but without control of the puck that was sitting for Adam Henrique to tap in as an easy one. 1-1 game off of the power play goal.

Shots in the first period end up 14-12 in favor of Anaheim. Decent enough start out of the gate for the Pens for once, but felt like they were already playing down to the competition after Zucker’s goal.

Second period

The second line gets back to work, Zucker’s high effort with a shot attempt between his legs helps led a frenetic scramble that eventually gets the puck to Rickard Rakell and then Evgeni Malkin finds a loose puck to put away and give Pittsburgh their lead back at 2-1.

After Anaheim takes one penalty, Dmitri Kulikov runs Jake Guentzel and the Pens get 100 seconds of a 5v3 but the Penguins can’t score on it.

Shots in the second period are 17-9 in favor of Pittsburgh, but Anaheim does just enough to hang in there on the scoreboard.

Third period

In the third the Penguins can’t find an insurance goal and it comes back to haunt them. Rakell taks a penalty while on the power play and his former team takes advantage. Trevor Zegras sets up John Klingberg to fire a hard shot by DeSmith and tie the game with 8:44 remaining.

The Penguins try to get the lead back, but suffer one defensive breakdown and it’s the Ducks who pull ahead late. Ryan Strome finds Zegras with a nice pass and the young star whips a quick shot to put Anaheim in the lead with only 4:20 to go.

Pittsburgh keeps pushing, but are fighting the clock as much as the Ducks down the stretch. They pull DeSmith for an extra attacker in the game’s closing seconds and it pays off. With only 24.8 seconds to go, Bryan Rust ties it for the Pens. Great pass from Jake Guentzel to find the wide open Rust and then he only had to hit the open target. 3-3 game.


The Penguins have not been a great overtime team this season, but they don’t mess around and waste much time on this one. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel get a 2-on-1 in the opening minute of OT and the captain finds his favorite winger with a pass and Guentzel ends the game with a high shot that eludes John Gibson.

Some thoughts

  • Nice to see Zucker keeping it going. He’s playing so hard these days and the effort is jumping off the ice, and getting rewarded for it as well.
  • Jeez, the Ducks are just a bad team. Listless, slow, not good. It’s not difficult to see why they’ve only won four games in regulation this season. It’s a shame the Penguins were somehow losing to them late in the third period.
  • But Anaheim was really physical, especially with shoving matches and exchanging gruff words, often around either goalies. Didn’t make it easy in that way.
  • A lot of people have been begging for some fresh blood in the lineup, and it’s nice to see Gruden get a chance and Drew O’Connor is still kicking around too. Young legs and extra energy is good, especially with a couple of players like that on IR in Ryan Poehling and Josh Archibald.
  • Rakell had three assists (the OT goal was the only one he didn’t factor into) and was the first star of the game, in his first game against the team that drafted him. He didn’t score a goal but that always seems to happen for players to have a great night against their former club that first time around.
  • Guentzel hasn’t done a huge amount of scoring lately, but was a key part of both the game-tying and game-winning goal. That could be big moving forward for the confidence and to get him going again.
  • Pittsburgh now improves to just 2-6 in overtime this season. It’s a good thing they got the extra point tonight, would have been difficult to not get the result against the Ducks.

Up next, the Pens continue their home-away-home-away scheduling with a trip to Ottawa on Wednesday night. Then those same Senators will fly to Pittsburgh for another home game on Friday to follow.