By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — Fresh off a 10-game homestand, the Ducks returned to the road, where success has been even harder to come by, even when a victory is within their grasp.
The Penguins’ Bryan Rust tied the score with 25 seconds remaining in regulation, then Jake Guentzel scored 33 seconds into overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins staged a late rally to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Ducks on Monday night.
John Klingberg’s short-handed goal with 8:46 left in regulation pulled the Ducks even and when Trevor Zegras pounded home a shot from the slot a little more than four minutes later, the Ducks (12-27-5) found themselves with a chance to win just their fifth road game of the season.
Guentzel’s goal was his 18th goal of the season as Pittsburgh snapped a two-game slide.
The Ducks had the first chance in the extra period when Zegras broke in all alone on Casey DeSmith. Yet rather than shoot, Zegras tried a drop pass to Cam Fowler that Fowler couldn’t convert.
“(We) give up one late, then I make a stupid pass in overtime (and they) go down the ice and score,” Zegras said. “Not what you want.”
Guentzel and Sidney Crosby raced the other way, with Guentzel beating Ducks goaltender John Gibson from in close to snap a two-game skid and avoid a potentially crushing loss.
“It’s huge,” Guentzel said. “We need two points now and the same two points at the end of the year. You never want to lose games, but I think for us to come back tonight hopefully gives us some confidence here.”
Jason Zucker scored his 11th goal this season on his 31st birthday and Evgeni Malkin added his 15th for Pittsburgh. Rickard Rakell had three assists in his first game against the Ducks, for whom he played 550 games to start his career before being traded to Pittsburgh last season. Casey DeSmith stopped 26 shots to win for just the second time in his last seven starts.
Pittsburgh turned up the pressure late and Rust broke through to help the Penguins escape.
Adam Henrique also scored for the Ducks. Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, played well in his return to his hometown. He stopped 42 shots but didn’t have an answer for Guentzel’s wrist shot as the Ducks dropped their fourth straight.
“With our team, we have to play a perfect game, where we’re at as a team,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “We played a hell of a game. We were opportunistic when we needed to be. … Obviously, in overtime, you have your chance at one end. If you don’t put it in, you know it’s coming back the other way.”
The Ducks are again destined for the NHL draft lottery, while the Penguins have been postseason regulars for the better part of two decades.
Yet Pittsburgh has reached the season’s midway point struggling to play with any consistency. Injuries along the blue line to veteran defenseman Kris Letang and Jeff Petry haven’t helped. Their absence has dampened Pittsburgh’s firepower and contributed to a sluggish stretch in which goals have been hard to come by.
Pittsburgh called up forward Jonathan Gruden to help bring a little bit of energy to the fourth line and the rookie dinged the post with a shot in the first period,
Zucker, whose spirited play has been one of the few bright spots of late, gave the Penguins the lead 4:16 into the first. Henrique tied it 17:50 into the first when he finished off a flurry in front of the Pittsburgh net by flipping a rebound by DeSmith, who had turned aside a pair of shots but was on all fours when Henrique tapped in the power-play goal.
Malkin put Pittsburgh in front 8:46 into the second when he tucked the puck past a sprawled Gibson.
DeSmith, who has been shaky of late – he was pulled after just seven minutes in a loss to Winnipeg on Friday – was solid until the later stages of the third period when Klingberg and Zegras put the Ducks in front to nearly pull off a stunner.
Ducks seek refuge on the road, open six-game trip
Ducks fall to Devils, wrap homestand with 3rd straight loss
Struggling Ducks fall to Connor McDavid, Oilers
Ducks’ John Klingberg knows he is ‘trade bait’
Ducks’ Justin Kirkland released from hospital one day after car accident
Pittsburgh appeared to be reeling when the Ducks turned a 2-1 Penguins lead into a 3-2 deficit with 4:20 left in regulation. Instead, the hosts turned up the pressure, with Rust getting his first goal since Dec. 22 thanks to a pretty backhand feed from Guentzel in front that gave Rust a wide-open net to shoot at.
“We didn’t have any doubt,” Rust said. “I think everybody had that mindset. Guys talking on the bench, ’Hey, we’re going to get this one. Keep digging. Keep pushing. Let’s get this to overtime and then we’ll win it there.’ And that’s exactly what we did.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan liked the way his team refused to panic after losing the lead.
“In a lot of instances that can deflate a team,” Sullivan said. “I never sensed that on the bench.”
The Ducks continue their six-game road trip Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Philadelphia.