With a nationally televised game against the defending Stanley Cup champions, this was the kind of performance the Ducks needed to show just what kind of force they could be.
Their forecheck was strong. Their play around the net, relentless. And even though they fell behind early to a dynamic team with three offensive stars playing some of their best hockey (they had a four-game winning streak), it didn’t matter.
The Ducks survived a late Pittsburgh Penguins surge and used two breakaway goals to win 5-3 on Wednesday before 17,291 at Honda Center.
“It was disappointing, obviously, that we took two penalties and they scored two goals to make it exciting. … We shot ourselves in the foot with two undisciplined penalties. I don’t know any other way to describe it,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
“We had a neat and tidy game and we gave them life. We gave them an opportunity. And when you continue to give teams opportunities, they’re going to make you pay.”
Especially a team like the Penguins, who boast three offensive stars in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. It was Kessel who was involved on both late-game goals as they threatened to tie the once seemingly out-of-reach contest.
First, he ripped a beautiful top-shelf snap shot over Gibson, and later found Jake Guentzel, who bent the wrister around the goaltender’s right arm.
The Penguins almost tied the score a short time later, but a sprawling Gibson slid over to the other side of the crease to stop the Conor Sheary attempt with his glove.
The victory completed the season sweep over the Penguins for the first time since the 2001-02 season, and earned the Ducks standings points in six of their last eight games.
The Penguins got on the board late in the first period after Kevin Bieksa and Cam Fowler combined for a costly turnover in the defensive zone with Malkin there to collect the puck and snipe it home.
The Penguins would chase the game for the majority of the contest, though.
All-star winger Rickard Rakell deflected a Francois Beaucheim point blast that was first redirected by Ryan Getzlaf early in the second to tie the score 1-1. Almost 90 seconds later, Adam Henrique executed a perfect wraparound goal off his own rebound to take the lead.
The Ducks didn’t let up from there and ratcheted up the pressure on the forecheck. And when the Penguins’ league-best power play took the ice at the midway point of the second period, it was instead the Ducks who scored on a Chris Wagner breakaway with backup goalie Tristan Jarry beat through the five hole.
It was one of four breakaway chances for the Ducks (two of them on the penalty kill, two of them goals). Ondrej Kase converted the other such opportunity after he burst through the offensive zone untouched and beat Jarry with a double-deke on the breakaway