PITTSBURGH 3 – ANAHEIM 2 (SO)
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t pass the eye test for much of their game against the Anaheim Ducks Friday night. They had seven shots through two periods, were badly outplayed at even strength, out scored 2-0 at even strength and out shot 28-11 in the game at even strength. Overall the Penguins were outshot 31-17, a season low for the Penguins in shots.
However, the Penguins rallied in the third period with a power play goal from Evgeni Malkin and willed themselves to a 3-2 shootout win over the NHL leading Ducks.
“Take away Pittsburgh’s power play, and I think they had 10 or 11 shots, which is great,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We followed the game plan to a tee, and we played really good. We just lost in a shootout.”
The positive for the Penguins was finding a way to come out on top in a tight defensive game where they were the inferior team at even strength and a frustrating game for them offensively. I think that could be big for them moving forward.
“I think we’re trying to evaluate ourselves based on how we’re playing, not always the result,” Sidney Crosby said. “You’re going in to win, but you also want to do things right. With that said, I think we did some good things here – some things better than we might have done last night in the second half of the game and didn’t make those big mistakes that hurt us last night.”
Special teams and Marc Andre Fleury were big factors in the win. Pittsburgh went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill, giving up just three Anaheim power play shots, and obviously got the big power play goal from Evgeni Malkin in the third period.
Fleury who had surrendered 10 goals in his first two starts after the Olympic break, was very strong making 29 saves on 31 shots. You could look at him as stealing two points.
Brandon Sutter scored in the sixth round of the shootout and Fleury won it by stopping Ryan Getzlaf.
The Penguins are now 2-0 on the season against the Ducks. Have we seen enough from those two games to get a sense on how these two teams would matchup in a potential Stanley Cup Final?
Both meetings showed long periods of games where the Ducks have the ability to completely clog the middle and give the Penguins little space offensively. In Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win against Anaheim in Pittsburgh earlier this season, the Ducks held Pittsburgh to three shots in the first period before Pittsburgh broken the game open.
Anaheim’s size and defensive play would have a great chance to wear down and frustrate the Penguins for much of a series but I’m not as high on the Ducks as I am for a few other Western Conference contenders.
The Ducks have scoring depth but they don’t have a great second line that can win a couple a playoff games were the Getzlaf-Perry line be struggling. And believe it or not, Pittsburgh could have the goalie advantage.