PITTSBURGH — As timing would have it, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks are coming off of wins they believe could be a pivotal point toward better results.
That same timing has those teams meeting Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena, meaning one club will necessarily have a bit of a setback after its feel-good win.
It is the final game for both clubs before the NHL goes dark for its holiday break.
Article continues below ...
Pittsburgh (18-15-3) had lost five of seven before its highly charged 3-2 shootout win Thursday against Metropolitan Division rival Columbus.
Anaheim (15-13-8) broke a two-game losing streak Thursday when Hampus Lindholm completed a hat trick with an overtime goal that gave the Ducks a 5-4 win against the New York Islanders.
The game in Pittsburgh marks the end of a six-game road trip for the Ducks, who are 2-2-1 so far on a trip that is tied for its longest away from home this season.
Lindholm suggested the win could become a “turning point.”
“This road trip has kind of been a bad spiral going the wrong way here, but we dug deep and now we just have to roll with this and keep going forward. For momentum and how this road trip’s been going, this win was huge for us. We have to build off this.”
Pittsburgh has won three in a row overall against Anaheim and has a four-game home winning streak against the Ducks.
The Penguins found a new level of emotion in their win Thursday. In addition to rugged winger Ryan Reaves getting into a fight, skilled veterans Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang dropped the gloves for scuffles of various description.
“I thought it was one of our more spirited efforts of the year,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we were emotionally invested.”
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray made 30 saves through regulation and overtime. He had lost two of three since returning from a lower-body injury.
That was against Columbus, though, a division foe. The Penguins and Blue Jackets have developed a strong rivalry in recent seasons because of the number of times they face each other during the season, as well as a couple of intense playoff meetings.
“We hate each other,” Malkin said.
There is no built-in animosity between Pittsburgh and Anaheim, however. They aren’t so much birds of a feather as they are occasional opponents from opposite conferences, so it remains to be seen whether the Penguins can replicate the same emotion Saturday.
“I think we can. I think we have to,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re emotionally invested. … We’ve got to find ways to get involved emotionally game in and game out because that’s when our team’s at its best.”
Continuing that in a game against an uncommon opponent might be one thing that could help the defending Stanley Cup champions get on a roll.
“We’re making strides in the right direction,” Penguins goaltender Matt Murray said. “We haven’t been able to find consistent success yet.”