Ducks’ road trip ends with loss to Penguins

PITTSBURGH (AP) — When Pittsburgh Penguins
coach Dan Bylsma shuffled the lines in search of a spark for his
slumping offense, putting Evgeni Malkin and rookie Brian Gibbons on the
ice together wasn’t what he had in mind.

Still, he’ll take it.

Gibbons converted a slick backhand pass
from Malkin for his first NHL goal at 3:56 of the third period, starting
a late burst as the Penguins beat the weary Anaheim Ducks 3-1 on Monday
night.

Called up from the minors 12 hours
before the opening faceoff, the 25-year-old Gibbons was thrown
immediately onto Pittsburgh’s third line. He ended up on the ice with
Malkin after the Penguins were caught in the middle of a shift change.

While watching Malkin do a full lap
through the Anaheim zone, Gibbons sprinted to the slot, took the pass
and sent a shot over Viktor Fasth’s right shoulder to break a scoreless
tie.

“I was just trying to get to the net and
bang home a rebound or something,” Gibbons said. “Somehow it ended up
right on my stick.”

Gibbons earned his first NHL assist 62
seconds later when Brandon Sutter deflected Olli Maatta’s shot from the
point past Fasth.

Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf quickly pulled
the Ducks within one, but Sidney Crosby’s 10th goal of the season capped
a flurry in which the Penguins scored three times in just over four
minutes.

The outburst was a welcome development
for a team that for all its considerable offensive talent has struggled
to score recently. The Penguins came in riding a 1-4 slump, scoring just
one goal in each of the four losses.

“It was actaully a good game for us,”
Bylsma said. “We wanted to be in that tight game and stayed the course
and came through with a couple of big goals.”

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots for
Pittsburgh as the Penguins leapfrogged Washington to move back into
first in the Metropolitan Division. The teams will meet in the nation’s
capital on Wednesday.

Getzlaf’s fifth goal in four games
provided all of the offense for the Pacific Divison-leading Ducks, who
earned just one point during a four-game East Coast road trip. Fasth
made 24 saves but struggled in the final 20 minutes.

“I’m not seeing any secondary scoring
from anybody,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you don’t have
four lines contributing scoring it’s tough to win. I don’t care how
good the guys are, it’s tough to win.”

Anaheim totaled just six goals in four games during a swing through Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Pittsburgh.

“We’ve been getting chances and stuff
and we’ve been working hard, but like I said we’ve had sickness and
injury throughout our team and we haven’t dealt with it well this trip,”
Getzlaf said.

The Penguins have their own issues, particularly an offense that has looked spotty at best over the last three weeks.

Bylsma decided to experiment. He moved
Pascal Dupuis from the top line with Crosby to the second line with
Malkin, replacing Dupuis with Beau Bennett. Jussi Jokinen, second on the
team in goals, was bumped down to the third line to give Sutter a
little help.

The initial results were underwhelming.

Then again, Anaheim had a little
something to do with it. The Ducks, in the midst of their first rough
patch following a brilliant start, dominated the first period. They
clogged passing lanes, gave Pittsburgh’s talented forwards little room
to freelance, and controlled play for long stretches.

Pittsburgh didn’t record a shot on
Fasth until 2:02 left in the first period, when Bennett managed to
redirect a pass from Crosby into Fasth’s chest.

“They’re a big team,” Crosby said. “They got a long reach and they clog up the neutral zone pretty well.”

The arena roared in mock celebration,
though for all of the Penguins’ offensive issues, the game remained
scoreless thanks to Fleury.

Starting for the 19th time in
Pittsburgh’s 22 games, Fleury turned aside several early scoring
chances, including a pair of opportunities by Getzlaf.

The Penguins grew so frustrated at one
point that Bylsma paired Malkin with Crosby and Chris Kunitz for a
couple of shifts, looking to get something started

It produced better flow but nothing that found its way by Fasth.

Pittsburgh’s best chance came when
Malkin skated behind the Anaheim net and deftly dropped the puck to a
sprinting Kunitz, whose backhand shot banged off Fasth — who wasn’t
looking because he thought Malkin still had the puck — and then hit the
crossbar before rolling out of danger.

NOTES:
Anaheim F Matt Beleskey returned to the lineup after missing 19 games
with an upper body injury. … The game was the 600th of Jokinen’s NHL
career. … The Ducks head home to face New Jersey on Wednesday. Anaheim
is 8-0 at home.