ANAHEIM, Calif. – A distinct playoff atmosphere permeated the cozy surroundings inside Honda Center on Friday night, with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins making a rare appearance to take on the league-leading Ducks.
The only way the teams can face each other again is if they meet in the Stanley Cup finals—a tantalizing possibility.
Evgeni Malkin scored the tying goal during a power play in the third period and Brandon Sutter got the deciding goal in a six-round shootout, leading the Penguins to a 3-2 victory in the second showdown between the leaders of the Eastern and Western Conferences.
Pittsburgh holds a three-point lead over Boston in the East. Anaheim has a three-point edge over St. Louis in the West and leads the overall standings with a 43-14-7 record.
“I’m glad to get out of here with two points,” Sutter said. “It wasn’t easy at all, but I think we earned it at the end. We managed to find a way and battled. (Marc-Andre) Fleury made some big saves for us. Anytime you get a shootout win, you have to tip your hat to him. It’s a great win for us.”
Defenceman Deryk Engelland scored in the first period and Fleury made 29 saves for his league-leading 33rd victory, after the Penguins rallied twice from one-goal deficits.
“He definitely held us in it those first two periods,” Crosby said. “In the third, I thought we went after it more. But he really had to make some saves pretty consistently to allow us to get ourselves back in the game.”
Corey Perry scored twice for Anaheim and Ryan Getzlaf had two assists, but the Ducks’ captain missed a chance to extend the shootout with a shot over the net—making him 0 for 6 this season in the tiebreaker.
Jonas Hiller had 15 saves, one of them on a breakaway by Crosby in the first minute of overtime. It was the second straight shootout loss for the Ducks, who were beaten 4-3 by Montreal on Wednesday.
“Overall, it was a good test for us, but falling in a shootout is disappointing,” Kyle Palmieri said. “But Hillsy played a great game. When he was tested, he came up big for us. Perry had two nice goals, but it just wasn’t enough. It’s tough not to get that extra point, but we held a pretty good offence to not too many shots. So it was a good effort on our part.”
An SRO crowd of 17,518 squeezed into the 17,174-seat arena, including a very loud contingent of Penguins fans, for Crosby’s fourth game in Anaheim during his nine-year career. The NHL’s leading scorer, who was a career-worst minus-5 in Thursday’s 5-3 loss at San Jose, didn’t have a shot on net until his breakaway.
“We’re trying to evaluate ourselves based on how we’re playing, not always the result,” 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.”
Malkin got the equalizer with 11:03 left in regulation while Palmieri was penalized.
“They’re a heck of a team, and they took it to us for the first part of the game,” Crosby said. “But I definitely like how we responded.”
The Ducks grabbed a 2-1 lead early in the second period thanks to some determined forechecking by Perry, who knocked defenceman Brooks Orpik off the puck behind the net. Perry eventually got hist 34th goal, 10 behind league leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington.
Perry opened the scoring 3:54 into the game, converting a rebound of Getzlaf’s shot. Engelland pulled the Penguins even at 7:47 with their first shot on net, beating a screened Hiller between the pads with a 45-foot slap shot. It was Engelland’s sixth goal, one fewer than he had in 187 games over his four previous NHL seasons.
“I’m not sure we deserved to win this game, to be honest. But we’ll take it,” Orpik said.
NOTES: Crosby and Perry, both league MVPs, 50-goal scorers in a season and Stanley Cup winners, had their seventh head-to-head meeting. Crosby has three goals and four assists, and Perry has six goals and three assists. The Penguins are 5-2 in those games. … Crosby and Perry both scored in the shootout. … Anaheim D Luca Sbisa played less than 3 minutes, leaving the game with a lower body injury. … LW Chris Kunitz, who won Stanley Cups with Anaheim in 2007 and Pittsburgh in 2009, has no points in five games against the Ducks since they traded him to the Penguins in February 2006. … The Penguins haven’t allowed a power play goal in their last six road games and 19 short-handed situations.