The Penguins and Anaheim Ducks Friday night showdown was billed as a contest between the top team in the Eastern Conference vs. the top team in the Western Conference.
The game needed 65 minutes and six rounds of a shootout to finally be decided. When it was all over it was the Penguins whom walked away with a 3-2 victory at Honda Center in Orange County.
Brandon Sutter scored the game-deciding shootout goal, snapping a backhand shot past Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller.
“I tried to pull it and get it up and it worked,” Sutter said. “It was a good one for us.”
The Penguins had difficulty finding their game through the opening 30 minutes, but then went blow-for-blow over the final half of regulation and overtime with the mighty Ducks. And in the end, the Penguins were able to make enough plays to steal two points.
“The first half of the game they had their opportunities and chances where they’re good at, on the rush,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We got back into the game and played a tight, 1-1, 0-0, type of game. That’s what we got ourselves back into. I really liked the response.”
For the Penguins, the win was a response game following a disappointing 5-3 loss in San Jose Thursday night. Pittsburgh wasn’t pleased with the way they played in that game and wanted to rebound against Anaheim.
“We did some good things here, some things better than we might have done last night in the second half of the game,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We didn’t make those big mistakes that hurt us last night.”
The Penguins were heavily outshot by the Ducks in the game, 31-17. But the great equalizer is always the goaltender.
Marc-Andre Fleury put together a brilliant 29-save performance between the pipes to help the Penguins pull out the victory.
“He was (the difference maker) in the first half of that game,” Bylsma said. “You can see the shot total favored them heavily in the first half of the game. … He was outstanding all game long for us. It’s only fitting he gets the win in the shootout.”
Fleury was especially strong late in the third period and in overtime. He made a point-blank save on Hampus Lindholm in overtime to help force the shootout.
“It was good, I feel useful,” Fleury said. “If I can do something to help out the team and try to get a win it’s what I’ve got to do.”
Defenseman Deryk Engelland was back in the lineup for the Pens and the team reaped immediate rewards.
Engelland found an errant pass in the high slot in the first period. He immediately snapped it low and on goal. The puck blistered through some bodies and the five-hole of goaltender Jonas Hiller to tie the game at 1-1.
“I jumped on it and tried to get it off as quick as I could and it found its way in,” Engelland said.
The goal is Engelland’s career-best sixth of the season.
“He was good on defense tonight and played a strong game,” Bylsma said of Engelland. “To get that puck and get it 1-1 was huge for us. He’s scored the last two games on defense.”
POWERING THE PLAY
The Penguins power-play came though once again for the team. Pittsburgh scored a man-advantage goal halfway through the third period to tie the game at 2-2 off the stick of Evgeni Malkin.
With the goal, the Penguins now have 15 power-play goals in their last 14 games (15-for-51, 29.4%). With Pittsburgh clicking at that rate it’s no wonder the team has the NHL’s No. 1 ranked power-play unit.
The Penguins made several changes to their lineup for the contest against Anaheim. Robert Bortuzzo, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, did not play. Engelland was reinserted in his stead.
Brian Gibbons missed the game with a lower-body injury. He is listed as day-to-day. Joe Vitale returned to action. Lee Stempniak took Gibbon’s spot alongside Chris Kunitz and Crosby.