When the Pittsburgh Penguins lost players like James Neal and Jussi Jokinen after last year, fans wondered how the team would fare offensively going into the 2014-15 season. It has only been one game, but after their 6-4 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night there did not seem to be any doubt from the sellout crowd at the Consol Energy Center.
Each line contributed in scoring and generating chances against goaltender and Pittsburgh native John Gibson as the Penguins registered 39 shots on goal.
“First home game, you want to get your crowd into it and feed off that energy,” Sidney Crosby said. “We have a lot of new faces so you figure guys are always excited to play that first game. We used that energy to our advantage.”
The scoring began in the first period when newly acquired Patric Hornqvist got his first goal as a Penguin off a faceoff win by Crosby which gave his team a 1-0 lead at 5:16. Minutes later, Olli Maatta made a breakout pass to Chris Kunitz who found Crosby breaking into the Anaheim zone and wristed the puck underneath the arm of Gibson.
Pascal Dupuis added a goal at 13:14 of the first period giving the Penguins a 3-0 lead. The Ducks started a run of their own getting a goal from Ryan Kesler.
After a pair of goals by Corey Perry in the second period, the game was tied at 3-3 midway through the game. Pittsburgh’s offense refused to back down however, getting goals from Crosby (his 2nd), Blake Comeau and Brandon Sutter. Perry would complete the hat trick late in the third period, but it was not enough.
In a game that went back and forth with momentum, Head Coach Mike Johnston felt that Pittsburgh can learn a lot from these types of games.
“It was certainly exciting for sure. The first ten minutes, I thought we had great puck possession and great energy,” Johnston said. “With special teams, there were momentum shifts in the game, how we handle those shifts and how we manage the puck at certain times of the game as I said to the guys, I think those are things we need to improve.”
Aside from the Penguins out-shooting the Ducks 39-29, the penalty kill was one thing that stood out. Anaheim went 3-for-6 with the man advantage which kept them in the game.
Maatta finished the game with three assists, which was a good sign for the second-year defenseman. Johnston felt he played a good game on both ends of the ice and will need to do so going forward having lost Matt Niskanen in the off-season.
Pittsburgh will get set to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Ekiert’s Three Stars:
3- Corey Perry RW, Anaheim- Hat Trick
2- Sidney Crosby C, Pittsburgh- 2 Goals, Assist
1- Pascal Dupuis RW, Pittsburgh- Goal, 3 Assists