ANAHEIM - Less than 24 hours after a satisfying victory over the rival Kings in LA, the Ducks couldn't maintain the momentum against the Penguins tonight at Honda Center.
Coming off a 4-0 trouncing last night at Staples Center, the Ducks showed the effects of back-to-back games in a 5-1 defeat to the defending Stanley Cup champs. Pittsburgh, which last played in Philadelphia on Saturday, ran its winning streak to four straight since captain Sidney Crosby returned from a concussion last week.
The Ducks were without their captain, Ryan Getzlaf, for the second time in the past week, as he sat out with an upper body injury, as did winger Nick Ritchie. After falling into an early hole, the Ducks got within a goal on a Cam Fowler strike late in the first, but that was as close as they would get tonight.
"That's just a shame," Fowler said. "You hope a team like that can bring the best out of you, but it didn't. We're a team still trying to find ourselves a bit, but two stinkers in a row at home is not good for a team with high expectations."
Indeed, the Ducks' last appearance at Honda Center was a 4-0 defeat last Friday night to Columbus.
"It seemed like we didn't have any energy," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's the second game we've played in our building like that. I thought we had a decent enough first period to get ourselves some respect in the game, but we were still down in the period. They were much quicker and had a lot more energy than we did."
Tonight the Penguins never trailed and were never tied after going in front 7:41 into the game, off the stick of team-leading scorer Evgeni Malkin, who hammered a one-timer from the left wing past a lunging John Gibson.
The Pens made it 2-0 on the rush as Tom Sestito made a nice backhand pass to Matt Cullen, who buried a one-timer from near the same spot as Malkin. Anaheim challenged that Sestito was offside just before chasing down a stretch pass that set up the play, but the replay was ruled inconclusive.
The Ducks got one back on the power play when Fowler's slap shot from just inside the blueline skipped through a crowd and a Rickard Rakell screen to get past goalie Matt Murray. But that was all the Ducks would get tonight on 33 shots on goal.
Pittsburgh made it a two-goal game again with 3:18 left in the second after a shot went off Gibson and rang the crossbar, and Bryan Rust swept in the loose puck in the crease.
"Our second period was just awful," Fowler said. "We spent the whole time in our own end. We defended the entire time and didn't make any plays with the puck. A team like that is going to make you look silly when you do stuff like that."
After a dubious Ryan Kesler tripping penalty at the end of the second, the Pens converted on the power play early in the third when a Justin Schultz pass was tipped through by Kris Letang on the rush.
The game was effectively put away with 12:46 left in the third when Patric Hornqvist tapped in a cross-crease pass from Crosby that followed a Ducks defensive breakdown.
Gibson was given the rest of the night off just past the halfway point of the third, replaced by backup Jonathan Bernier.
The Ducks (4-5-2) will look to rebound two nights from now when they take on Arizona at Honda Center.