Chart courtesy www.war-on-ice.com
The beginning of what ultimately turned out to be a low event period (just 20 shot attempts at even strength between the two teams) saw the Ricky Etem Cakes line get the start, with Rickard Rakell, Emerson Etem and Jiri Sekac getting some early action in the Pittsburgh zone. The Penguins responded with a strong shift from Sidney Crosby's line, getting a cycle going and sending two players to the front of Frederik Andersen's crease. The teams had some early four a side action as Corey Perry and David Perron each sat for coincidental minors, with neither generating much quality. Andrew Cogliano left the game just under three minutes in with what appeared to be a hand issue, but would return around two minutes later.
Anaheim drew the first power play opportunity when Sekac got behind Rob Scuderi on a break in up the near wall, forcing the Pens defender to resort to a diving stick sweep that tripped up Sekac. The Ducks struggled with the extra man, failing to genuinely establish in the offensive zone until around the final 20 seconds of the advantage and getting a shot from the far boards by Ryan Getzlaf that goalie Thomas Greiss easily handled. Jakob Silfverberg drew iron with a wrister from the near circle to the glove side around nine minutes in, a chance emblematic of much of the Ducks offense for the evening. Greiss would leave rebounds or boot them to juicy areas, but Anaheim failed to get in his kitchen or pounce on the ricochets. At the other end Andersen had issues handling the puck, shooting a dump in to the near corner only to have it bounce back off the side of the net into the blue paint and force another clear as he reassumed his position.
With five minutes remaining in the period the Ducks had an odd man rush with Getzlaf leading the charge up the near wall, but Kris Letang was able to speed back and force Getzlaf to circle to the side and break the momentum. He still put a dangerous puck to the slot that Kyle Palmieri redirected high and hit Paul Martin in the shoulder, creating a funky deflection on Greiss. Later Rakell began an up ice rush with a pair of impressive plays in the Ducks zone, first knocking a chest high puck in the air with his stick and then gloving it down to pass ahead for Etem. A controlled chip-in lead to a Clayton Stoner slapper from the far point with Rakell sniffing, but the rebound stuck to Greiss. Perry again went to the penalty box, this time for a trip on Letang in the offensive zone corner, but the Anaheim penalty killers smothered the opportunity to send the game to intermission scoreless and the hosts holding an 8-5 shot advantage.
Just 2:54 in the Penguins were caught with a skater too many on the ice, and Anaheim had their best (but ultimately fruitless) power play stretch of the night. The Ducks spent the first minute in the attack zone after winning the draw, creating a chance near post for Perry and getting a rebound creating shot from Tomas Fleischmann that none of the black sweaters could track down. Following the expiration of the extra man Bruce Boudreau sent out the Ricky Etem Cakes line, using the trio as a post-special teams energy jolt for much of the time they were together during the game. The Pens had their first great chances when Josh Manson and Cogliano both took spills on the offensive half of center, leading to a three on one break with Stoner the lone Duck back, but Evgeni Malkin fired wide.
Nine seconds before the midway mark of the game Blake Comeau opened the scoring, taking a Derrick Pouliot pass after a carry in and unleashing a clapper from the top of the circle that Andersen was a hair late getting a glove to. The puck ticked the top of his glove, then clanked the white top back post in the net to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Perry responded on the ensuing shift, driving in up the far wall and getting a shot off from the circle only to be denied by Greiss. Pittsburgh doubled their edge off a face off with 8:07 remaining when both Cam Fowler and Simon Despres went to Perron in the far corner. He swung the puck to Patric Hornqvist, who caught Andersen off the near post shooting from below the near side goal line and banking it in off the hip to make it 2-0.
Again it was Ricky Etem Cakes who sparked the Anaheim offense with six and a half minutes to go, as Greiss spat a rebound that forced Hornqvist to take a slashing penalty sawing Etem's stick in half in the slot as he was going for the loose puck. The top power play unit spent the first 80 second in the zone, with shots deflecting wide off Ryan Kesler and Perry, but also ultimately came up empty. Make it now 17 power plays at home in a row that have come hollow, the last coming off Kesler's stick against the Hurricanes on Feburary 3rd. Following the Ducks just killing off a Despres slashing minor Hornqvist struck again 1:03 before intermission, redirecting an Ian Cole shot over Andersen's left shoulder to give the Pens a 3-0 lead through two.
Doing their best to completely ice the game Pittsburgh made it 4-0 after Comeau forced a turnover by Nate Thompson at the near side of the net, with Chris Kunitz scooping it up and finding Malkin alone at the far circle for a wrister that bled through Andersen to the blocker side just 2:03 in. Then came the attempted jump-starting from Boudreau, as Sekac was moved to the top line while Palmieri slotted in with Rakell and Etem. The Ducks finally took the donut off the scoreboard with Fleischmann taking a wrister from the near circle the Greiss botched with his glove, popping it up over and in to give The Butcher (Fleischmann's name translated from German means "Meat Man") his first goal in orange, gold and black and cut the deficit to 4-1 with 10:57 remaining.
The goal jolted some life back in to the Anaheim offense, and despite a holding penalty by Hampus Lindholm the Ducks continued to press with Getzlaf setting up Fowler for a slapper from the far circle that Greiss absorbed. It would be the best opportunity of the odd man situation with Anaheim killing it off, and then with 6:52 to go drawing closer. Palmieri was switched with Perry on the line with Rakell and Etem, and Etem shielded the puck in the near corner before dishing between his legs to Rakell, whose cross slot pass deflected off a Penguin defenders stick right to Perry for to roof blocker side and make it 4-2. Pressure continued for the hosts, with Kesler taking a shot off "the mind" of Greiss and Silfverberg getting a wrister from the bottom of the near circle, both denied.
Andersen vacated the net with 2:30 to go, and off a lost offensive zone face off the Penguins were able to get it out of the zone to Daniel Winnik, who lobbed it ahead for Crosby forcing Fowler to hook him to prevent the empty netter. The Ducks pulled Andersen again while on the kill, but Crosby ultimately got his ENG with 10.3 remaining to seal the 5-2 result. Ben Lovejoy was the first Penguin to tap the mask and congratulate Greiss, having played 16:44 in his return to Anaheim. Though the Ducks out shot the Pens 29-21, the attempts numbers tell a different story with Pittsburgh holding the edge until midway through the third and ultimately only being out-attempted 53-47 for the full 60. The Penguins sweep the season series, with an aggregate of 11-6 with winning on opening night in Pennsylvania.
Good: Rakell and Etem continued their phenomenal driving of play, so much so that as the game went on Boudreau rotated in Palmieri and then Perry in place of Sekac in hopes of sparking the offense. And it worked, for a goal! Maybe the best thing about all of it was Brian Hayward finally mentioning it on the broadcast, if sounding somewhat as if the world were somehow upside down in it being so. Also, good to see The Butcher pick up his first Anaheim goal.
Bad: The Ducks continued their habit of a sluggish second period and allowed the mountain to be scaled too tall for a comeback. It's a problem that the team must address and fix as there are only 15 games remaining until it's playoff time.
Ugly: Three of the four goals against allowed by Andersen were eminently stoppable, a rather shocking performance. The second goal where he got caught not sealing off the short side post in particular was a real killer to give up.
3rd Icehole: Nate Thompson - A good deal of this is not Thompson's fault, and rather on how he's currently being used. While it was he who had the turnover that lead to Malkin's essential curtain-dropper early in the third period, the bigger issue continues to be that which has been written about ad nauseum on this site. Thompson is a decent fourth line center whose line is currently being iced in checking line situations, and the team lows -7 shot attempt differential at even strength and -9 for the whole game reflect that.
2nd Icehole: Frederik Andersen - Playing his first game against a quality side since returning from an injury suffered in Tampa Bay, Andersen seemed unlike himself for much of the evening. The uncharacteristic issues with puck handling were a harbinger for the groaners that would find their way over the red line. That being said, he has done well this season in bounce back performances. Though a better goaltending may have allowed the Ducks to steal a point from the night, his performance sticks out on a night where the team as a whole was less than spectacular.
1st Icehole: Patric Hornqvist - Another player who has terrorized the Ducks for the life of his career, Hornqvist now has scored 12 times and helped on 13 more in 26 regular and postseason games against the franchise. He's been more productive against the Ducks than any other team in the league and what's more, seven of his goals have come on Honda Center ice. From his alertness in catching Andersen to score from beneath the goal line, to the skillful deflection for his second of the evening, it was another memorable evening for him while making life miserable in Anaheim.
Next Game: Monday, March 9, 2015 at Vancouver, 7:00 PM PT