|Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins earned their first win of the young season.
The Anaheim Ducks
got off to an historic 12-0-4 start last season en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Their quest to defend the championship isn’t going nearly as well.
The “Ducks Around The World” tour that began with two games in London last weekend ended with a thud in Pittsburgh on Saturday night as the Penguins got two goals from ex-Duck Petr Sykora and held off Anaheim, 5-4.
Sidney Crosby nearly went scoreless for a second straight night, but got his first point of the season by beating Chris Pronger to the puck at the Anaheim blue line and sending Ryan Malone in alone. Malone beat rookie goalie Jonas Hiller at 13:51 for what proved to be the winning goal.
Nineteen seconds earlier, Sykora jammed in a loose puck to break a 3-3 tie.
''I couldn't ask for a better start at home,'' said Sykora, who signed with the youthful Penguins to give them an experienced, Cup-winning scoring threat.
The road-weary Ducks didn’t quit after Malone’s goal. With Hiller on the bench for an extra attacker, Corey Perry converted a feed from Ryan Getzlaf at 19:38. The Ducks got one more rush, but were unable to beat Marc-Andre Fleury.
It was Anaheim’s fifth game in eight days – the Ducks played in London last Saturday and Sunday, then in Detroit on Wednesday and Columbus on Friday. But unlike the game in Columbus, a 4-0 loss in which the Ducks looked road-weary, they had some zip. However, they head west for their home opener with a 1-3-1 record, a far cry from last season’s record-setting start.
''It was a long five-game road trip, but we were able to learn an awful lot about ourselves and an awful lot about the way we need to play,'' Pronger said. ''We got back to crashing and banging and grinding on teams.''
The Ducks finally get to play their home opener – and celebrate their Stanley Cup victory – Wednesday night against Boston. Asked what the Ducks would do on the flight back to the West Coast, Pronger replied, ''Sleep. We're too tired to get angry.''
The Ducks are also playing shorthanded. They’re without injured goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere and defenseman Mathieu Schneider, as well as two stars from the Cup team, defenseman Scott Niedermayer and forward Teemu Selanne, who are weighing retirement. Hiller is Anaheim's No. 3 goalie, behind Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov.
''We'll be better when we get our group together,'' coach Randy Carlyle said.
The line of Chris Kunitz, Getzlaf and Perry accounted for all four Anaheim goals.
Kunitz opened the scoring 6:34 into the game on a tip-in, but Sykora scored from the slot just over 10 minutes later to tie the score.
Getzlaf beat Fleury with a wrist shot from the slot at 1:25 of the second period to put the Ducks back in front. But just over two minutes later, Colby Armstrong and Evgeni Malkin connected 20 seconds apart to put the Penguins in front. Armstrong made a spectacular move around defenseman Maxim Kondratiev before beating rookie goaltender Jonas Hiller with a wrist shot. Malkin fed Sykora and buried the return pass to give the Penguins their first lead.
Kunitz took a pass from defenseman Francois Beauchemin and scored a shorthanded goal 6:18 into the third period to tie the game at 3-3.
Meanwhile, Crosby continued to struggle. Last season’s scoring champion and MVP also took a puck on the side of the right foot not long after Kunitz’s goal. He appeared to be in considerable pain for a while on the bench, but returned to the game and wound up with 20:38 of ice time.
''Everyone was motivated to play these guys,'' Crosby said as the Penguins followed up a season-opening, 4-1 loss at Carolina on Friday. ''They're the champions, and we were all up for this game, playing Anaheim … and it's the home opener.''