ANAHEIM — Marcus Pettersson returned this week to the city where his NHL career began. The Penguins’ defenseman and the Ducks’ Swedish-born players – his teammates until a Dec. 3 trade sent him to Pittsburgh – met for dinner Thursday, one night before the Ducks and Penguins squared off.
“It’s good to see them,” Pettersson said Friday, after the Penguins’ morning skate. “They’re excited for a win. They desperately need one.”
They still do.
The Ducks erupted for three first-period goals, only to surrender four in the final period en route to a 7-4 loss. Jake Guentzel’s empty-net goal in the final minute completed a hat trick and sent the Ducks to their 10th consecutive loss before the announced sellout crowd 17,473.
For head coach Randy Carlyle, it was a first. He said he’d never experienced a streak this long as a coach.
“If I had the cure, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in right now,” Carlyle said. “That’s what you ask of these guys: you ask their input, and tonight we looked like a tired hockey club. We’re questioning whether we should have skated (Thursday), what we should’ve done (Thursday) versus what we did. You’re always going to be questioning yourself when you feel that your group didn’t have the energy that was necessary.”
When a reporter asked Carlyle after the game if he was worried about any repercussions, the coach snapped back in frustration: “What do you mean? What are you trying to say?”
“Don’t ask the dumb questions,” Carlyle said before leaving in a huff.
The Ducks lost seven consecutive games in November of 2011, then beat the Montreal Canadiens at home on the night General Manager Bob Murray abruptly ended Carlyle’s first stint as the Ducks’ head coach. Considering this losing streak might reach 11, the timing of the question seemed appropriate.
The Ducks (19-18-8) are about to embark on a grueling stretch. They begin a five-game trip Sunday in Winnipeg. Fourteen of their next 18 games will be played away from Honda Center. Their last win? Dec. 17 in Pittsburgh.
“They’re a great team, yeah,” Ducks forward Adam Henrique said, “but we need to learn to play with a lead, whether it’s 1, 2, 3 – at any point in the game you need to be tight and put your foot on the gas at the same time.”
With a burst of energy unseen for most of their streak, the Ducks took a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 13 minutes.
Nick Ritchie opened the scoring. Tussling with Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson in front of the net, he deflected a sharp-angle shot from Ondrej Kase past goalie Matt Murray at 1:27. At 7:41, Andrew Cogliano fed Ryan Getzlaf from behind the net for the Ducks’ second goal. Daniel Sprong – whom the Ducks acquired for Pettersson – snuck a shot through traffic in the slot at 12:23.
Though John Gibson surrendered six goals in all, he single-handedly kept the final score from looking much worse. Despite their burst of offense, the Ducks were lucky to hold a lead after the first period at all.
Gibson’s kick-save on winger Bryan Rust early in the first period was among his finest this season. Later in the same shift, Ryan Kesler dove to block a backdoor, point-blank shot by Sidney Crosby. Kesler sat out the rest of the first period to recover but returned to begin the second.
The Penguins (25-13-6) drew even with three unanswered goals of their own in the second period.
Gibson lost his stick late in a penalty kill, and Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh’s first goal shortly thereafter. Guentzel slipped a shot through Gibson’s five-hole at the 4:54 mark. With Josh Manson in the penalty box at 11:24, Gunetzel was on the receiving end of a pinpoint Phil Kessel pass to set up the Pens’ third goal.
The Ducks pulled ahead 4-3 on a brilliant short-handed goal by Jakob Silfverberg at 14:39 of the second period. Henrique stripped Malkin at center ice and fed his alert teammate for the slick breakaway.
The Ducks still led 4-3 with 11 minutes remaining in the third period.
Their lead evaporated in less than a minute.
Malkin found Tanner Pearson from behind the net for the equalizer at the 9:33 mark. An unassisted goal by Kessel – who took the puck away from Ducks defenseman Jacob Larsson along the half-wall, rushed the net, and converted his own rebound – gave the Penguins a 5-4 lead at 10:21.
Pearson scored again at 16:35, forcing the Ducks to pull Gibson for the final minute. That allowed Guentzel to complete his hat trick with a 134-foot shot into an empty net, prompting a shower of headgear onto the ice.
As a crew dutifully collected the hats and removed them from the ice, the Ducks had an extra moment to ponder their next move.
What was said in the locker room after the game?
“That’s just for in here,” Henrique said.
: When you’re up like that…They’re a great team, but we need to learn how to play with a lead. Whether it’s one goal, two or three at any point of the game, we need to be tight and keep your foot on the gas." pic.twitter.com/k4lxpKIN5l
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 12, 2019
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) January 12, 2019
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