PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Dog tired at the end of a lengthy shift, Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey saw a familiar No. 8 out of the corner of his eye, flipped the puck in that general direction and hoped for the best.
When it comes to Teemu Selanne, the best tends to happen.
Selanne took Beleskey’s feed and beat Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury with a nifty backhand midway through the third period to lift the surging Ducks past the Penguins 2-1 on Wednesday night.
“There’s a reason he’s got a jillion goals in this league,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Maybe not a jillion, but he’s getting there.
Selanne’s 19th of the season was also the 656th of his career, tying him with Brendan Shanahan for 12th place on the NHL list. It came a night after Boudreau sat the veteran for much of the third period in a 2-1 victory over Minnesota.
The benching was an effort to preserve Selanne’s 41-year-old legs for the rest of Anaheim’s eight-game road trip. He certainly looked fresh Wednesday when the Ducks snapped Pittsburgh’s six-game, home-winning streak.
“This game was huge for us,” Selanne said. “We got here at like three in the morning. They came out pretty hard and controlled the first period and then we got into the game. This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and even though we got behind we believed we could come back.”
Corey Perry added his 28th goal for the Ducks, and Jonas Hiller made 25 saves as Anaheim won in Pittsburgh for the first time in 11 years. The Ducks are 14-3-3 since New Year’s Day, tied with Detroit for the most points in the NHL over that stretch.
“We really didn’t get too many good opportunities, and when we did, those shots didn’t go through,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer, was held pointless for the second time this month, and his eight-game goal streak at home ended, too. Jordan Staal scored for Pittsburgh, but the Penguins’ high-flying offence was bottled up over the last two periods.
“We got lucky and (Malkin) didn’t score,” Boudreau said.
While the Ducks hadn’t won in Pittsburgh since 2001, Boudreau made it a habit while behind the bench for the Washington Capitals.
Washington dominated the regular-season series with the Penguins, beating Pittsburgh eight straight times during his tenure before he was fired in December. The Consol Energy Center crowd hadn’t forgotten, booing Boudreau loudly when the in-house camera panned to him in the first period.
Boudreau and the Ducks got the last laugh, thanks in part to a 10-time all-star who is still getting it done in the twilight of his career.
Selanne gave the Ducks the lead after he took a long pass from Matt Beleskey and backhanded a shot past Fleury 7:51 into the third. Hiller made the goal stand up, though he had help from a defence that held Pittsburgh to 26 shots, eight below its average.
For the first 40 minutes or so, however, it looked as though one goal would be enough for the Penguins to extend their winning streak.
Though Pittsburgh has been nearly unbeatable at home lately, the Penguins often had to come back to do it. The Penguins trailed 2-0 in each of their previous two games before rallying.
This time they were on the other end.
Staal, playing in his third game after missing six weeks with a left knee injury, gave Pittsburgh an early lead when a turnover led to a 2-on-1 break with Matt Cooke. Staal faked a pass to Cooke and then fired a shot over Hiller’s stick side for his 17th goal of the season and second since his return last weekend.
“I felt like we were in control of the game but we made too many turnovers,” Staal said. “They’ve got a lot of skilled players and they’re going to find some ways to get some goals.”
Pittsburgh had several chances to push the lead to 2-0, the best coming from Malkin early in the second when he hit the left post and the crossbar with a wrister from about 15 feet. It was one of the rare times in recent weeks when the Russian failed to deliver when given a prime scoring chance.
Fleury kept the lead intact until late in thesecond, robbing Cam Fowler with his glove and then stuffing Niklas Hagman on a short-handed breakaway. Anaheim finally broke through with less than a minute to play in the period when Perry deked Zbynek Michalek and then fired a low wrist shot past Fleury from in close for his fifth goal in three games.
It set the stage for Selanne, whose goal pushed Anaheim (24-24-9)—the 13-place team in the Western Conference—within six points of the post-season cutoff.
“We had the group in here to play like this all season,” Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf said. “For whatever reason the start of the season was just tough for us, and we couldn’t get it done. We’ve found a way now, and we’re rallying around our coach and rallying around each other.”
NOTES: The Ducks will continue their road trip on Friday at New Jersey. Pittsburgh plays at Philadelphia on Saturday … Anaheim D Nate Guenin, recalled from Syracuse of the AHL on Monday, was scratched. The Ducks also held out forward Devante Smith-Pelly. … Pittsburgh was without D Ben Lovejoy and C Tyler Kennedy. … Pittsburgh forward Arron Asham (concussion) practised on Wednesday and could return this weekend. Asham hasn’t played since Jan. 15.