ANAHEIM — Halfway through the game, the players leading the way for the Penguins were Kasperi, Pierre-Olivier and Jeff.
Not Sidney or Evgeni.
Yes, that spoke volumes about the way things were going for the Ducks. Pittsburgh took a 1-1 game and broke it open with two goals in the final 2:22 of the first period – by Kasperi Kapanen and Jeff Carter – on its way to a 6-3 win against the Ducks on Friday night at Honda Center.
The Penguins outshot the Ducks 59-31. The margin was 25-8 after one period and 43-18 after 40 minutes, making for yet another night under siege for Ducks goalie John Gibson and the most shots on goal the Ducks have faced this season as Gibson made a franchise-record 53 saves. The previous mark was 52, also by Gibson, against Florida on April 12, 2022.
“It’s tough when you give up 60 shots, to stay in a game,” Ducks center Trevor Zegras said. “That’s the way it goes when you play a heavy veteran team like that.”
It was 59 shots but you get the idea. Gibson leads the NHL with eight games of 40 or more saves this season.
“We played a hesitant game,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We were chasing the game. We ran into a very desperate team. Even though there’s a little over a third of the season left, they know they’re in a massive playoff fight.
“And that’s what we’re going to see – a lot of desperation coming in and we can’t be cautious. When we don’t have the puck, we don’t want to stand back and defend. We’ve got to go check.
“For a good part of that game, I thought we stood in awe of some of the players.”
For the Ducks, it was their first regulation loss in six games, ending a streak of five games (4-0-1) with at least a point. Their last regulation defeat was a 6-3 loss on Jan. 21 in Buffalo.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph led the Penguins with two goals and an assist, Kapanen had a goal and added an assist, and Carter scored for the first time in 12 games.
As for Evgeni? Malkin eventually found the scoresheet, setting up Joseph’s second goal, which made it 4-1 at 14:55 of the second period. Malkin added another assist on Bryan Rust’s goal in the third – which was Malkin’s 1,200th career point in the NHL. Sidney Crosby had a third-period assist and now is on a nine-game point streak.
Malkin said it was hard to say what 1,200 points meant, adding: “I don’t want to say it’s numbers but it’s huge.”
Zegras, rookie Mason McTavish and defenseman John Klingberg scored for the Ducks. Zegras made it 1-1 in the first period, just two seconds into a power play. It was set in motion by Adam Henrique’s faceoff win in the left circle against Teddy Blueger and the 19th goal of the season for Zegras. Henrique had two assists against the Penguins, giving him 33 points in 52 games this season.
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“It’s tough to get in the flow of the game when you take so many penalties to start,” Zegras said. “A team like that that has guys like Crosby, Malkin, Raks (Rickard Rakell) – so much skill – guys that have been doing it for so long, you give them a four-minute power play, a two-minute power play here and there, the momentum starts shifting and then they’ve got 40-plus shots and it’s a bit of a snowball effect after that.”
The game marked the Honda Center return of Penguins forward Rakell, who played his first game in Anaheim since he was traded from the Ducks to Pittsburgh in March. Rakell received a nice ovation from the crowd when he was recognized with a thank-you video during the first period.
This was the Ducks’ second game without their second-leading scorer Troy Terry and it could be an especially rough go if Terry is out for a meaningful amount of time. Terry was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury and the team said he is considered week-to-week.
“It’s a tough spot to fill,” Henrique said after the morning skate. “He’s been such a great player for us and brings big energy to the lineup too. It’s an opportunity for some guys. Collectively, we have to find a way.”