The Pittsburgh Penguins, rebounding from a forgettable season opener in Raleigh, gave the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks a taste of what they are capable of in the home opener tonight in Pittsburgh. The Pens shook off the rust that seemed apparent the night before, and bested the Ducks by a score of 5-4. Newcomer Petr Sykora gave the crowd something to cheer about with a 3-point night (2G, 1A), and helped lead the Penguins to their first season win.
The Ducks struck first on a power play tip-in goal by Chris Kunitz at 6:34 of the first period, while Ryan Malone sat for 2-minutes on a holding the stick call. Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger assisted on the tally. The Penguins battled back late in the first, with Petr Sykora picking up his first goal as a Penguin at 16:39. The goal came on the power play during a frantic scrum in front of Ducks goaltender, Jonas Hiller. Gary Roberts and Erik Christensen assisted on the goal, tying the game at 1 each at the end of period one. The Penguins outshot the Ducks 12-8 in the period, despite being shorthanded a total of 6 minutes on 3 penalty calls. The Ducks spent 4 minutes of the first in the penalty box.
In the second period, the Ducks jumped ahead early on an even strenth wrister by Ryan Getzlaf off from a feed by Francois Beauchemin at 1:25. But a little over 2 minutes later, Colby Armstrong put a dipsey-doodle move on the Ducks defenseman Maxim Kondratiev, cut in front of goaltender, and chipped the puck over Hiller’s left shoulder and tied the game at 2. Gary Roberts was credited with the feed on Armstrong’s goal, which came at 3:56 of the second and ignited the crowd and the rest of the team. Just 20 seconds later, Evgeni Malkin lit the lamp with his first goal of the season on a tip-in from Petr Sykora, and the crowd went wild. Despite the scoring, the Ducks outshot the Pens 10-5 in the second and had two unsuccessful power plays while Recchi (tripping) and Gonchar (cross-checking) sat for minor infractions. The Ducks killed off their lone penalty in the marker. At the end of 2, the Penguins led by a score of 3-2.
In the third period, things got dicey for the Penguins as Chris Kunitz scored a shorthanded goal off his backhand at 6:18 to tie it at 3. But the Penguins came back with authority in the latter part of the third scoring two quick even strength goals, 19 seconds apart. The first came off from the backhand of Petr Sykora at 13:32, his second goal and third point of the night, with assists by Georges Laraque and Evgeni Malkin. The second came at 13:51 from Pittsburgh native Ryan Malone, from Sidney Crosby and Rob Scuderi. The quick pair of goals rapidly shifted the momentum to the home team. The Ducks pulled their goalie for the final 51 seconds of the game, which helped enable a late tally by Corey Perry, from Chris Kunitz and Ryan Getzlaf. But they were unable to pull the trigger on a game tying goal in the final seconds of the match, as the game ended on the doorstep of netminder Marc Andre Fleury. The Penguins managed to stay out of the box in the third, and failed to convert on two power play chances against the Ducks. The Penguins outshot the Ducks 12-5 in the final frame, and 29-23 in the game.
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Petr Sykora finished the game with 3 points (2G, 1A), Evgeni Malkin picked up 2 points (1G, 1A), and Sidney Crosby notched his first point of the season (1A). “I couldn’t ask for a better start at home,” said Sykora. “Georges made a great play, he crashed the net and really opened it up for me.” Crosby said the Penguins were ready mentally and physically for the game, “They’re the champions, and we were all up for this game, playing Anaheim and it’s the home opener.” Marc Andre Fleury stopped 19 of 23 shots on the night, and looked much better in goal tonight.
Ducks’ Chris Kunitz had 3 points on the night (2G, 1A), and Francois Beauchemin added 3 as well (3A). “It was a long, five-game road trip but we were able to learn an awful lot about ourselves and an awful lot about the way we need to play,” Chris Pronger said. “We got back to crashing and banging and grinding on teams.” The Ducks were exhausted at the end of a five-game road trip to start the season, including two games in London, England last weekend.
The Penguins got a scare on a hard blast by Beauchemin that struck Crosby on the side of his right foot. Crosby, whose left foot was broken late last season, was in considerable pain until play was stopped. He was bent over for several minutes on the bench, but returned not long after that. However, his speed and agility seemed to be affected for the remainder of the game. Hopefully it is just a bruise and not something more serious.
The Penguins get a 3-day rest before hosting the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at 7:30PM at Mellon Arena. Tickets are available at Stub-Hub (follow the link on the left sidebar of this page). Check NHLPens.com daily for all of your Pittsburgh Penguins news, game previews, recaps, and much more!