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Penguins outscore Ducks for Johnston's first win

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' first game under coach Mike Johnston went through several sharp turns but ended in a win.

The Penguins recovered from surrendering a three-goal lead to win 6-4 in their season opener against the Anaheim Ducks at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Johnston is the first coach to win his debut with Pittsburgh since Rick Kehoe, who led the Penguins to a 5-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 16, 2001.

"It's certainly exciting," Johnston said. "The first game out of 82 games, it's good to get the win. Now we've got some building blocks going forward and we faced a very good team tonight. You see their top line, they're hard to handle. They're very dynamic down low. Then in behind that, they've got some good young players."

Sidney Crosby scored his second goal to give the Penguins a 4-3 lead with 2:26 remaining in the second period. Crosby received a pass from forward Pascal Dupuis, who finished with one goal and four points in his first regular-season game since tearing his ACL on Dec. 23, and snapped a shot past diving Ducks goalie John Gibson, who made 33 saves on 39 shots.

Dupuis' four-point game was his first since he had four assists for the Minnesota Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 25, 2004. Crosby, who finished with three points, has scored at least one goal in four consecutive Penguins home openers.

"Obviously, it was a long time coming," Dupuis said. "There's games like that where everything is rolling and it seemed to be one of those … For me, those two games in the preseason were huge. I knew what to expect, knew how hard it was going to be. Obviously, the level went up a couple of notches for the first game.

"It's good to get the first one out of the way."

Forward Blake Comeau added a fifth Pittsburgh goal, assisted by Dupuis and defenseman Olli Maatta, 54 seconds after Crosby scored. Maatta, who had shoulder surgery in May, assisted on three of Pittsburgh's goals for his first three-point game in his two NHL seasons.

Brandon Sutter's shorthanded goal, with Evgeni Malkin in the penalty box for hooking, pushed Pittsburgh's lead to 6-3 at 1:01 of the third period.

Gibson's teammates placed the blame on themselves, with Ryan Getzlaf and Ben Lovejoy each saying the Ducks "hung him out to dry."

"[It was] a tough situation for him in his hometown in the first game of the year," Lovejoy said. "But the team in front of him didn't play nearly well enough and we have to find a way to be better and we were not tonight … We want to play better.

"There were far too many things that went wrong, and we have to figure this out because that was embarrassing."

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said, "The breakdowns, our gaps were so bad. When we did what we were supposed to do, I thought we had a little bit of success and we had momentum."

Corey Perry scored the third goal of his hat trick to bring the Ducks within 6-4 with 3:13 remaining.

Down 3-0, Anaheim scored three unanswered, starting with Ryan Kesler's power-play goal with 5:38 remaining in the first period.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 25 shots, left his net and sent a pass off the end boards that was intercepted by Patrick Maroon, who sent it to Perry in front. Perry sent a shot past a scrambling Fleury to bring the Ducks within 3-2 at 7:53 of the second.

A little more than a minute after stopping Nate Thompson on a penalty shot, Fleury surrendered a second power-play goal. Perry shot the puck past Penguins defenseman Paul Martin and through a screen from Maroon to make it 3-3.

"That's one thing that we have in here," Getzlaf said. "We won't quit and we're always going to play and we need to answer the bell when the time came and we worked really hard to get back in the game. Then we had two mental mistakes that let us down.

"Those are the difference in the hockey game."

Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist, who was acquired from the Nashville Predators along with forward Nick Spaling in an offseason trade for forward James Neal, started the scoring 5:16 into the season. Hornqvist took a faceoff from Crosby and flicked a shot on goal that tipped off Gibson's glove and into the net.

Crosby scored 2:06 later when he streaked down the left boards, deked Lovejoy and snapped a shot under Gibson's right arm to put the Penguins up 2-0.

Dupuis scored Pittsburgh's third first-period goal. Malkin, who played after missing the preseason because of an undisclosed injury, dug the puck out of the right corner before sending a pass to Maatta. Dupuis took Maatta's pass and banked it past Gibson with 6:46 left.

"First home game, you want to get your crowd into it," Crosby said. "You want to feed off that energy, and we have a lot of new faces, so I think you're always excited to play the first one, but since we had so many new faces, I think we used that energy to our advantage."

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