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Ducks drop opener, 6-4, to Pittsburgh Penguins

Ducks drop opener, 6-4, to Pittsburgh Penguins
Ducks goalie John Gibson looks back to find a shot by the Penguins has gone into the goal during the second period Thursday night in Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic / Associated Press)

The sentiment of starting 21-year-old Ducks goalie John Gibson in his hometown seemed like a story penned by a romantic.

Gibson ate dinner at home a night earlier, led his team onto the ice in front of sold-out Consol Energy Center and glanced up to find an estimated 200 friends and family members who had piled into their seats.

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Instead of the glorious ending, however, it was a cascade of hockey tragedies.

Returning NHL most valuable player Sidney Crosby scored two goals and had an assist, and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored three goals in less than 14 minutes Thursday night, opening the regular season with a 6-4 victory over the Ducks.

"I should have had some of them. I think all of us didn't really play our game," Gibson said after enduring 39 shots. "They just played better than us tonight."

Many Ducks, including centers Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, said repeated breakdowns both on the defensive end and in the neutral zone left Gibson "hung out to dry," spoiling the sixth career hat trick by Ducks forward Corey Perry.

"That was terrible," said Ducks defenseman and former Penguin Ben Lovejoy. "We didn't have an answer for them. They came consistently with speed, completely outplayed us. Tough situation for him — his hometown, first game of the year — but the team in front of him didn't play nearly well enough and we have to find a way to be better. Far too many things went wrong."

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he envisioned Gibson starting over fellow goalie Frederik Andersen in this game as soon as the schedule was released.

Andersen had 20 regular-season wins to Gibson's three last season, and the Danish goalie was more effective in the preseason, when Gibson didn't gain a victory.

"Seemed like a natural to put him in his hometown," Boudreau said. "He wanted it, everyone was here. He welcomes pressure. That's what we went with, figured both of them would play two games on this road trip.

"This wasn't John Gibson … there was nothing he could do on the third, fourth or sixth one. Our gaps were so bad … too many odd-man rushes. We'll rectify it."

Andersen will start Saturday night in Detroit.

Crosby won a faceoff that new first-line mate Patric Hornqvist gathered and fired past Gibson's glove side 5:16 into the game.

Just 2:06 later, Crosby glided past Ducks center Nate Thompson and Lovejoy to bang a shot off Gibson's chest to the net.

Gibson admitted his nerves were "a little more than usual."

New addition Kesler delivered a wake-up call by slamming in a pass from Getzlaf to make it 3-1, the first of three Ducks' goals with a man advantage.

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"You score three power-play goals, you should win, but defensively we have to get better," Kesler said. "There's 81 games left. We're going to learn from our mistakes starting tomorrow."

Two Perry goals tied the score with 7:43 left in the second period.

But a high-sticking penalty on Ducks forward Matt Beleskey and a lost puck by defenseman Sami Vatanen led to Crosby's second goal, beating Gibson stick side late in the second.

Pittsburgh forward Blake Comeau was then left unattended 54 seconds later, again sailing to Gibson's right.

"We know where we need to go from here. We've got to do a better job helping our goaltender," said Getzlaf, whose turnover on another Ducks power play led to a final, short-handed goal.

Asked where he goes from here, Gibson said, "Practice tomorrow."

Twitter: @latimespugmire

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