Strong Start Doesn't Help Ducks in Pittsburgh

Justin K. Aller

It was all Ducks until Sid and Geno got fired up in the second and put it away in the third.

Final Score: Ducks 1, Penguins 3

First Period Recap: Probably the best period of this road trip for the Ducks.  For the first 15 minutes, or so, it was all Ducks.  They did a great job of exiting their own zone with really nice, crisp, five foot passes.  Great player movement, great puck movement.  As a result they were able to control the pace of play and for the most part keep it out of their end.

The PPG line had the best opportunities, but the much maligned Marc-Andre Fleury was solid.  There were rebounds to be had, but no Ducks around to capitalize on them for the most part, a credit to the Penguins' defense.

Pittsburgh didn't get their first shot on goal until about the 18 minute mark.  It looked like a really dangerous play, when Sidney Crosby lofted a backhand pass to Gardena, California's own Beau Bennett, but Bennett mishandled it and could only try to jam it into Viktor Fasth's pad on the backhand.

The period ended scoreless with the Ducks out shooting the Pens 12-3.

Second Period Recap: Pittsburgh seemed to have found their game a the tail end of the first, and used the second to really get it heated up.  It was essentially the opposite of the first, except that the few opportunities that the Ducks got were more spread out.

The first penalty of the game wasn't called until the 14th minute, against Luca Sbisa for cross checking Brandon Sutter.  That first Pittsburgh PP unit is scary as hell with Sid, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal (totally almost typed Jen Neale, that would make it less scary) Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang.  The Ducks did a really good job of neutralizing them though, thanks in part to some really clean faceoff wins/clears by Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler, respectively.

The Ducks' best opportunity of the period came right as the penalty to Sbisa expired.  As he came out of the box, former Penguin, Ben Lovejoy delivered a strike onto Sbisa's tape for the breakaway, but he shot it over the net.

The Penguins had the better of the chances by far.  The best was a rush by Malkin up the right wing boards.  As he wheeled around the back of the net, he reversed the puck for a trailing Kunitz, who had a wide open side of the net, since Fasth was still looking the other way, but the former Duck shanked it off the side of the net.

Fasth had some trouble controlling rebounds, but much like the Penguins in the first, the Ducks D was well positioned to keep the attackers away and/or gather the puck themselves.  Shots ended up 12-5 for the period in favor of the home team, and Corey Perry took a holding penalty (marginal by my estimation) that carried over to the third.

Third Period Recap: The first part of the third period was an explosion of offense, but it didn't start until after the Perry penalty expired.  The only reason for that, in my opinion was because Neal got hit in the face with a puck.  Sid tried to feed a pass across the crease to him, but it deflected into his face.  The whistle blew and trainers hit the ice, so even though he was fine, he had to sit for a shift and Jussi Jokinen replaced him.  On that shift, Sid threaded the needle right to The Juice, but he fanned on a wide open net.  Neal scores that, easy.

Then the Ketchup bottle opened.  Sbisa was battling down low for the puck and kind of won it, but fell to his knees so he couldn't do much with it, then Geno swooped in and put on a show.  He grabbed the puck below the goal line to the right of the net, curled around the net with speed, held the puck to the outside so that none of the defenders could reach it and by the time he got back to the right faceoff dot he feathered a dream of a backhand pass to Brian Gibbons in the slot for the first goal of his NHL career.

A minute and two seconds later, the Pens extended their lead to two.  This one wasn't as spectacular.  Rookie defenseman Olli Maata's point shot was deflected by Sutter right at the top of the crease.  Nothing Fasth could have done there, 2-0 Pitt.

The Ducks answered back though only 26 seconds after that.  Getzy was uncovered right at the top of Fleury's crease, and Lovejoy (who had a very good game against his former team) thought, it would be a good idea to pass it to him.  Getz put a little hesitation move on Fleury who flopped around for some reason leaving the net wide open for the Ducks' top scorer.  Guaranteed Fasth, Jonas Hiller, Frederik Andersen and maybe even John Gibson make that save.  It was the one flaw in Fleury's game, obviously.  Also, everyone on the Pittsburgh bench thought Penner was offside before the goal.  I couldn't really tell, he dragged his foot on the line, but it was SUPER close.

Immediately after the Getzlaf goal, the Ducks got their only power play chance of the night, and came very close to tying it up on a couple of occasions.  Perry had one from the faceoff dot that nearly snuck through Fleury, but he fell down to cover it.  But the best chance was Dustin Penner's.  Perry got a cross ice pass to Nick Bonino, who one touched it to Penner at the top of the crease with time (similar to Getzy's goal).  Penner however didn't roof it because Letang slid in to take away part of the net.  Penner tried to slide it around Fleury and Letang on the backhand, but lost the handle and it went behind the net, away from danger.

Only seconds after the penalty expired, Sid restored the two goal lead with a very Crosby like goal.  When you hear people praising Crosby for doing "the little things" so well, this is what they're talking about.  He comes in on the rush with Kunitz, but Sbisa does well to hold him up just inside the blueline.  Andrew Cogliano catches up to him on the backcheck and puts some good pressure on him, tipping the puck away, and that's when the magic happens.  Sid knocks the puck out of mid air with his hand, back onto his stick in full stride, makes a B Line for the faceoff dot with Kunitz crashing the net and zipps a seeing eye shot through traffic inside the back post.

I'd say Cogs is able to clear that puck past 95-98% of forwards in the league, unfortunately Sid is not in that group.  And not only that, he uses it to get into a really dangerous scoring area and pick a perfect shot through traffic.  He's scored more spectacular goals, but that's why he's the best in the league on a day-to-day basis.  He does that kind of stuff like it's nothing at full speed.  Also he's very handsome.  Crosby love-fest over, commence irrational hatred.

The rest of the way, the Ducks tried to open it up to get some more chances, but the Penguins were equal to the task.  They had one INCREDIBLE scoring chance with about seven minutes left.  Perry grabbed the puck and picked up steam along the right wing boards.  He tipped the puck past Brooks Orpik at center, creating a 2-on-1 with, Cogs against Paul Martin.  Perry made a nice pass under the stick of Martin, Cogs caught it, shot it, raised it, but Fleury sprawled across to make a phenomenal blocker save.

With less than two minutes remaining Penner took a penalty that only allowed Bruce Boudreau to pull Fasth for a 5-on-5 situation, and that only lasted a few seconds.  The Pens whittled the rest of the game away and sent the Ducks back to Anaheim with only one point out of this four game road trip.

**********

The Good: The first period was really good for the Ducks.  Super clean, puck possession, the only thing that could have been better is some harder play down low and in front of Fleury for chances on the rebounds.

The Bad: Not capitalizing on the strong start, and letting the Penguins' stars get into their respective grooves.

The Ugly: Not much again, this was another one of those solid road games, but that doesn't come as much consolation when the other team comes away with both points.

**********

3rd Icehole: Dustin Penner - This might be harsh.  He wasn't directly responsible for anything that cost the Ducks this game.  But coming off of one of his best performances of the year in Carolina, he wasn't feeling it tonight.  If he had played up to that level that he was on Friday, I'd like the Ducks chances of opening the scoring in the first and making it a completely different game.

2nd Icehole: Marc-Andre Fleury - was solid in the first and got some help from his defenders on the rebounds, but made a couple of HUGE saves in the third to hold the lead for the Pens.

1st Icehole: Evgeni Malkin - The third period was a great exhibition of what makes Malkin so difficult to deal with; Size, strength, speed, hands.  Dude is a nightmare to defend and had two assists.

Next Game: Monday, November 20 at 7:00 pm, back home to the New Jersey Devils

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