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Cooke's pair helps Penguins beat Ducks 3-1

by Brian Hunter
No one will ever confuse Matt Cooke with Sidney Crosby. But on a night when the Pittsburgh Penguins were forced to play without their captain, Cooke sure scored like him.

Cooke scored late in the first period and again early in the second as the Penguins won for just the second time in their last eight home games, beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 Friday night at Mellon Arena.

Defenseman Hal Gill added his first goal of the season and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots to help Pittsburgh survive a night without Crosby, who missed his first game this season after suffering an apparent left knee injury late in Wednesday's loss against Washington. They hope he can play Sunday afternoon against the New York Rangers.

Cooke, who had five goals coming into the game, saw time on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, which apparently encouraged him to think more offensively.

"Obviously I want to chip in offensively whenever I can to take the load off those guys," Cooke said. "Tonight I got a chance to play with Gino and Sykkie. We played a strong team game, and those guys are going to make plays. If I can create some space, then I want to do that, and tonight I got lucky and got two goals."

The banged-up Penguins, who lost three other regulars against the Capitals and also saw defenseman Brooks Orpik leave Friday's game in the second period due to an undisclosed ailment, moved ahead of Florida and Carolina into eighth in the Eastern Conference as they push to avoid missing the playoffs a season after making it to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

Ryan Getzlaf scored on the power play for the Ducks, who started a five-game road trip by losing for the eighth time in their last 10 away from Honda Center. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 21 saves.

"It's a big road trip for us, we know the importance of it, and tonight not to come out with any points is disappointing," veteran defenseman Bret Hedican said. "Right now we're just a step slow; we're not making things happen."

Anaheim outshot Pittsburgh 9-5 in the opening period, which looked as though it would end scoreless until Cooke struck with 20.3 seconds remaining. Malkin set him up with a pass and Cooke banked the puck off the far post while set up to the left of Giguere.

Cooke made it two goals in less than a minute of game time when he scored again 23 seconds into the middle period, this time set up by Ryan Whitney and Malkin.

"We've got to be ready from the start of the game, and I don't think we were today," Anaheim forward Samuel Pahlsson said.

Getzlaf got one back at 14:38 on a rush started by Scott Niedermayer. The defenseman got the puck to Bobby Ryan, who set up Getzlaf for his 17th of the season on a nice pass across the slot.

Gill, an 11-year veteran, gave the Penguins some breathing room by scoring just the 30th goal of his career with 4:55 left in the third. Jordan Staal won an offensive zone draw back to Gill, whose slap shot from the left point eluded Giguere.

"I don't get to do a lot of it, but it's nice when those things go in," Gill said. "It's just nice to get the win; if it helps us win, then I'm all for it. I definitely don't mind scoring if I get the chance."


After the Ducks pulled the goalie for an extra attacker, the Penguins tried to get the puck to Cooke, who had six previous two-goal games but no NHL hat tricks. Malkin and Sykora attempted to set him up during a 3-on-1 in the final minute, but the play was broken up.

That hardly lessened what Cooke provided the Penguins in the eyes of coach Michel Therrien.

"He's such a warrior, and it's nice to see those type of players get rewarded (by) scoring some important goals," Therrien said. "I know the guys were pushing for him at the end to score his hat trick -- I'm not quite sure if he had any hat trick before -- but you could tell guys on the ice tried to feed the puck to get that open net."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.

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