After the Penguins and the Ducks played two scoreless periods on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center, the game got chaotic in the third.
It began when forward Brian Gibbons, recalled this morning from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot in his first NHL game – then assisted on Brandon Sutter’s tip-in tally just 1:14 minutes later to help the Penguins to a big 2-0 lead.
However, Pittsburgh’s jubliance didn’t last long as Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, all alone in front of the net, beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury just 26 seconds later to cut their lead to 2-1. And right after, the Pens had to kill off a big penalty to Joe Vitale. It was a tough one to watch, as the Ducks created two absolutely glorious chances – but somehow Fleury and the Pens kept it out of their net. Then on their first shift after the penalty expired, Pens captain Sidney Crosby picked a corner and beat Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth with a wicked wrister to give the Pens a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.
“There was a lot of defense being played out there for two periods. It did open up a bit in the third,” Sutter said. “That’s the type of game we’ve had a tough time with, staying patient. We were tied 0-0 after two periods. To find a way to win and get some goals and stay with our game, not panic and not make mistakes, that’s a good win for us.”
It’s also a much-needed win, as the Pens had lost four of five coming into this game and had just one goal in each of those setbacks. They needed a spark, so they switched up their lines and dressed Gibbons hoping to find one. They certainly got it from the rookie forward.GIBBONS MAKES IMPACT
Gibbons was watching football when he received the call Sunday night from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes that he had been called up to join the Penguins.
Hynes told Gibbons that he was ready to play at the highest level, and just to continue playing his game.
Less than 24 hours after receiving the call, Gibbons heeded Hynes’ advice and made an impact in a huge way.
Gibbons, 25, tallied his first career NHL goal at 3:52 of the third period, breaking a scoreless tie and at the same time propelling the Penguins out of their recent scoring drought.
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The Pens may have been slumping going into this game, but it wasn’t because of the play of their goaltender. Fleury has been excellent for his team this season (save for his 5-1 setback against the Rangers on Nov. 6), and continued that tonight against the Ducks.
Fleury was sharp from the start, keeping his team in the game after an opening 20 minutes where the Ducks kept him busy by keeping play in his end and firing 12 shots at him. But he kept them all out of the net, and his game allowed his teammates to get to theirs in the third – where they ended up exploding for three goals. Fleury then finished strong, preserving the lead for his team against a tough opponent who was certainly capable of staging a comeback.
Fleury made a number of big saves in the game, but perhaps his most important one came with 6:46 left in regulation with Anaheim trailing by two. The Ducks had a 2-on-1 chance with Andrew Cogliano receiving a pass from Corey Perry and going in alone on Fleury, who slid over and made a magnificent blocker save to keep the puck out of the net and Anaheim from getting any momentum.
“I saw him coming in the backdoor,” Fleury said. “I wasn't sure if Perry was going to shoot or pass it so I was just trying to get there and get a piece.”
Fleury finished with 27 saves and improved his record to 12-6. He has now allowed two of fewer goals in 10 of his 11 home starts and has nine wins in those games, tying Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop for most in the NHL. Fleury is now 23-3 in his last 26 home games.18 MINUTES
The Pens switched up their lines for tonight’s game in hopes of igniting their offense, but they didn’t get that in the first period. It came later as it took the Pens exactly 18 minutes to record their first shot on goal, taken by Beau Bennett. By then, the Ducks had already fired 12.
The Pens added two more in those final two minutes to finish with three total, tying their season-low set in the second period of the opener against the New Jersey Devils. But though the numbers may indicate otherwise, the Pens actually created a decent amount of offensive zone time in that period.
“It was nice for the crowd to get into it. We didn’t think that was how we’d get them into it,” Crosby smiled of the fans’ reaction to their first shot. “For that first shot it got pretty loud in there. It was big for us to get the zone time. Even though we weren’t getting shots and we saw the zero up on the board, we felt like we had good zone time. We got pucks through in the second and did a better job of that. We saw the difference. It wasn’t scaring us. We don’t want to see a goose egg up there for too long.”
The Pens continued to build on the way they ended the first to start the second. They created even more
zone time, much better scoring chances and made the Ducks play defense – holding them to just five shots in the frame while producing 12 of their own. That set the Pens up to take over the game in the third, where they had another 12 shots (and scored on three) to finish with 27 to the Ducks’ 28. NOTES
Evgeni Malkin earned the primary assist on both Gibbons’ and Crosby’s goals to give him two in the game and a team-leading 17 on the season. Malkin now has assists in seven of his last eight games for a total of 10 over that span.
With his goal tonight (which stood as the game winner), Sutter has now scored in two of his last three games (he had a goal and an assist in the Pens’ 4-1 win over Nashville on Friday). All four of his goals this season have come in the last nine games.