The marquee for a star-studded game needed some last-minute adjustments, and that wasn't a good sign for the Ducks.
Even though they recently got talented forward Rickard Rakell back, the Ducks announced before Wednesday's game that two-thirds of their top line would sit out as Ryan Getzlaf is day to day because of an upper-body injury and Nick Ritchie apparently has a head injury.
Compound that with a rested defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins getting goalie Matt Murray and top defenseman Kris Letang back to their lineup and a 5-1 loss at Honda Center was predictable.
Rakell took Getzlaf's place on the top line but Anaheim, on a brutal end of a back-to-back set following a win against the Kings on Tuesday, couldn't keep up. Defenseman Cam Fowler's first-period power-play goal, with Rakell screening Murray, was their only marker. By the end of the night the main Ducks' attraction was a cameo by Teemu Selanne, seen hanging out in the tunnel to the dressing room.
Goalie John Gibson was briefly shaken up by Scott Wilson in the third period and was replaced by Jonathan Bernier shortly after with the outcome in hand. Gibson's former World Cup of Hockey teammate Murray made 32 saves in his season debut and Pittsburgh made it look like a pickup street hockey game early with its superb transition game.
Evgeni Malkin scored on a one-time blast from the right side that slipped under Gibson. Former Ducks forward Matt Cullen scored on his 40th birthday in similar fashion less than three minutes later, after Eric Fehr's 60-foot chip pass got to Tom Sestito on a play that was upheld upon offside review.
Coach Mike Sullivan had called it a "big test" to play the Ducks and noted their puck possession game, but the Penguins played with the puck for most of the second period and it translated to Bryan Rust's first goal of the season, for a 3-1 lead.
Letang made a deft tip for his first goal, and Patric Hornqvist also scored in the third, on an assist by Sidney Crosby for his only point.
Bernier became healthy enough to backup Wednesday. He was bothered by an upper-body muscle injury that was aggravated diving backward against San Jose on Oct.25.
Forward Ondrej Kase made his NHL debut and played on the third line.