The Pittsburgh Penguins (13-8-0, 26 pts) got back into the win column with a 3-1 victory over a quality opponent in the Anaheim Ducks (15-6-2, 32 pts) Monday night. The Penguins are at their best when they overwhelm teams with their quick strike ability and that’s how things played out Monday night. With the game scoreless early in the third, the Penguins scored three goals in a 4:04 span, getting goals from Brian Gibbons (1), Brandon Sutter (4), and Sidney Crosby (10).
Gibbons provided a spark breaking a 0-0 tie, 3:52 into the third period for his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. On the goal, Evgeni Malkin was the catalyst setting Gibbons up in front for the goal after nearly skating around the entire Ducks team in the offensive zone. “I just tried to get to the net, bang in a rebound or something, but he {Evgeni Malkin} wasn’t looking but somehow knew I was there and put it right on my stick,” Gibbons said of the goal.
Malkin had two assists in the win and now has 10 assists in his last eight games. Malkin, though, was held without a goal for the 14th straight game and again passed up several opportunities to shoot the puck.
Marc Andre Fleury made 27 saves on 28 shots and was strong in goal.
Anaheim has lost four straight games. The Penguins won for the second time in six games and retake first place in the Metropolitan Division.
— The Ducks suffocated the Penguins in the first period as the Penguins didn’t record their first shot until a Beau Bennett back hand shot with 2:00 left in the first (The play should have been called offsides). The Penguins were lifeless and Anaheim outshot Pittsburgh 12-3 in the period. “They were sitting back waiting for us,” Sidney Crosby.
To me, though, the game was lost for Anaheim in the first period. The Penguins were so lifeless that I strongly feel they could have sunk the Penguins if they got a goal or two in the first. A positive for the Penguins is while the Ducks had 12 shots, Anaheim didn’t have a lot of great first period chances. Ryan Getzlaf was spot on in his post-game comments…. “We didn’t have that many quality scoring chances in the first,” Getzlaf said. “We dominated the shots but it wasn’t like we had a million scoring chances.”

— The Penguins were the better team over the final two periods of play and not to take anything away from the Penguins, but the Ducks lost their legs which isn’t the first time for a team at the end of a cross-country road trip. While Anaheim is tied for the points lead in the Western Conference and there’s no denying they are a very deep team and a play a good structure but watching them they really seem to lack a go-to scoring second line behind the Penner-Getzlaf-Perry line.

— A positive for the Penguins in their third period surge was players getting to the high traffic areas on goals. Brandon Sutter provided a screen on his goal with a tip-in of Olli Maatta’s point shot and Chris Kunitz had a great screen on Viktor Fasth as Fasth never saw Crosby’s shot that put the Penguins up 3-1. “We played some of our best hockey there in the third period,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We will see these goals tomorrow on video and note the net-front presence,” Bylsma said. Crosby feels the Penguins finally got rewarded. “I think our net-fronts have been very good lately,” Crosby said. “I think we just haven’t gotten those rebounds. Haven’t got a lot of bounces. We’ve been there, nice to get rewarded.”

— Talk around the league is Ryan Getzlaf deserving to be right in the middle of the MVP race at the quarter mark of the season. No argument from this end.

Marc Andre Fleury right now is just a different goaltender at home then he is on the road. Fleury is now 9-2-0 at home with a 1.54 GAA and .941 save percentage. On the road he is 3-4 with a 2.73 GAA and .889 save percentage.

— We didn’t get a real good look at Kunitz – Crosby – Bennett and Dupuis – Malkin – Neal together as Bylsma was mixing the lines a lot. Looking to spark Evgeni Malkin, Malkin saw some time on Sidney Crosby’s right wing throughout the game. Crosby played 16:10 at even strength and Kunitz played 16:42 at ES. Bennett played just 10:47 at even strength and appeared to get benched in the third period due to a blown defensive assignment on Getzlaf’s goal.

— For the Penguins if you plug an undrafted free agent into the lineup, he’s going to have immediate success. Similar to Jason Megna, Brian Gibbons provided a spark with a goal and assist in his first NHL game. Gibbons played over Matt D’Agostini and immediately brought more to the table despite his smallish frame and got to pucks quickly on the forecheck. He’ll stay in the lineup till he plays one bad game then be sent back to Wilkes Barre. “I just came in tried to work hard, keep things simple,” Gibbons said.

Brandon Sutter gave the Penguins an impact game in all phases. He scored the game winning goal and was 10/13 (77%) in the faceoff circle. If he can ever become a consistent offensive player, it would be huge for the Penguins moving forward.