The Penguins and Ducks played a very tight contest in Wednesday night’s game at CONSOL Energy Center. But in the end it was Anaheim that escaped with a 2-1 victory.
The Pens took the early lead off of Jordan Staal
’s 17th goal of the season. The scoring play started in Pittsburgh’s zone with Pascal Dupuis
chipping the puck beyond a pinching Ducks defenseman and to Staal. The center skated in on goal with Matt Cooke
for a 2-on-1. Staal kept the puck and snapped a perfectly placed shot over the shoulder of goalie Jonas Hiller.
The Ducks tied the game in the final minute of the second period. Defending NHL MVP and goal-scoring champion Corey Perry pulled the puck through defender Zbynek Michalek
at the side of the net before sliding the puck under goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
Anaheim scored the game-winner following an extended shift in the defensive zone. After the lengthy work by the Pens, the Ducks pushed a counterattack up ice. Matt Beleskey found Teemu Selanne streaking down the near side. Selanne made a quick move to his backhand and sneaked the puck under the arm of Fleury.
“I don’t know the length of that shift, but it might have gotten closer to the minute length,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They were able to strip and kind of can open Kris Letang
there and got a turnover and went back the other way. We saw (Matt) Niskanen was gassed from the shift. They got an opportunity with some speed, and Selanne has used that one before.”
The game overall was very even, as expected from a one-goal contest. The shots favored Anaheim slightly, 29-16, and possession time was almost dead even. But that is not the way the Pens want to play.
“It’s just playing 50/50 hockey. You’re going chance for chance. We don’t want to play that,” forward Chris Kunitz
said. “I’d rather tip the ice in our favor like we did the first 12 minutes or so. We got away from our game. We just have to make sure we stick to our systems and don’t give them all those chances.”
The Pens gave a spirited fight as the game was winding down while trailing 2-1. The Ducks Perry nearly gave his squad a two-goal lead with under five minutes left in regulation.
Perry took a shot from the far circle that crept through Fleury, fell in the paint and trickled toward the goal line. Defenseman Kris Letang
dove with his outstretched stick to bat the puck out of danger and keep it a one-goal game.
“I just happened to see it going behind Flower, and I just got my stick on it,” Letang said. “It was nothing really desperate, I just saw it popping out of his equipment. I just put my stick down to make sure it doesn’t cross the red line. That’s it.”
No doubt Fleury thanked his fellow countryman for the save.
The Pens had an injury scare in the third period. Zbynek Michalek
went sliding to the ice to block a shot by Ducks blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky.
The puck struck Michalek in the side of the helmet. He lay prone on the ice motionless. The athletic trainers helped him to his feet. He left the ice and headed down the runway.
But Michalek came back after only a minute and finished the game. He said afterwards that he was OK.
“I was fortunate it got part of my helmet,” he said. “Got me on the ear, but nothing serious happened. So I’ll be fine.”
Author: Sam Kasan