ANAHEIM - All early signs pointed to the Ducks finally breaking out of the doldrums, but they let one get away from them tonight.
Anaheim took a 3-0 lead over the visiting Penguins after the first period, but couldn't hold onto it in an eventual 7-4 defeat at Honda Center that extended Anaheim's franchise-record losing streak to 10 games.
"Terrible," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf aptly called it in a quiet Ducks locker room. "It's awful. Not being able to finish a game you start 3-0."
After having their three-goal lead wiped out, the Ducks regained the advantage on a Jakob Silfverberg shorthander in the second period and carried a tenuous one-goal lead into the third. But the Penguins dominated the period for the most part and scored four unanswered to pull away.
"We have to go to work," Getzlaf said. "I've done 12 of these interviews in the last three weeks. Message is the same. We have to make a decision - a conscious decision. It won't just happen. You have to think about it, go through the motion and go through the whole process."
Pittsburgh tied it midway through the third on a one-timer by Tanner Pearson that just squeezed inside the near post.
Less than a minute later the Pens took their first lead of the game when Phil Kessel punched in his own rebound after beating rookie defenseman Jacob Larsson to the net.
Pittsburgh virtually put the game away with 3:25 left when an Evgeni Malkin shot from the slot fluttered behind goalie John Gibson, and Pearson snuck behind him to tap it into the open net.
They slammed the door with less than a minute left when Jake Guentzel filled an empty net from the left wing after Gibson had gone to the bench for an extra attacker, finishing off his second hat trick of his season.
As much as the Ducks have slumped, Pittsburgh remained hot in winning its 12th in the last 14 games.
Anaheim's fortunes appeared to have turned just 1:27 into the game when Ondrej Kase fired a shot into the crease from a sharp ankle, and it caromed in off the skate of defenseman Jack Johnson. A later scoring change awarded the goal to Nick Ritchie after it was deemed the puck nicked his leg on the way.
Video: PIT@ANA: Ritchie deflects in Kase's sharp-angle shot
Gibson kept the lead with perhaps his best stop of the year, stretching the leg out to make a kick save on Bryan Rust, who briefly had a wide open net in front of him from the slot.
Video: PIT@ANA: Gibson robs Rust with great pad save
Getzlaf made it 2-0 from approximately the same spot in the left wing circle as Kase, throwing a shot on net that snuck under goalie Matt Murray.
Video: PIT@ANA: Getzlaf sneaks shot past Murray short side
Daniel Sprong's third goal in the last six games made it a three-goal lead, a shot from the slot that Murray let slip between the leg pads. Sprong was traded by the Penguins to Anaheim on December 4, and since then he has six goals in 16 games.
Video: PIT@ANA: Sprong goes five-hole on Murray
Pittsburgh got back into it with two goals in the opening five minutes of the second, the first coming when Malkin one-timed from the slot just as a Pens power play expired and soon after Gibson lost his stick.
Then a Ducks turnover led to Guentzel getting an open look from the right wing circle, and he slid a shot under Gibson.
Pittsburgh seemed poised to tie the game after that and finally did it when Guentzel swept in a rebound from just outside the crease for his second of the night.
"We stopped playing," Getzlaf said. "They're a good hockey club. They're not going to let us win. We came out a little flat, started taking penalties, started running around in our zone and not making strong plays in crucial times."
The Ducks remained on their heels after an Andrew Cogliano tripping penalty gave Pittsburgh a power play, but instead they turned the tables when Adam Henrique nudged the puck ahead to Silfverberg on a breakaway, and he buried the shorthanded wrister top corner.
Video: PIT@ANA: Silfverberg pots SHG on breakaway
That gave the Ducks a 4-3 lead going into the final period, which Pittsburgh erased with the two quick strikes from Pearson and Kessel and piled on after that.
"They're a great team, but we need to learn how to play with a lead," Henrique said. "Whether it's one goal, two or three at any point of the game, we need to be tight and keep your foot on the gas."
The Ducks went 0-3-3 on their six-game homestand and hit the road for five straight, starting Sunday in Winnipeg.