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Monday, February 8, 2016

Game Recap: Pens Crush Ducks 6-2

Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang caught fire towards the end of the game against the Panthers Saturday night to power the Penguins to a comeback victory. They remained hot against the Ducks. Crosby scored 2 goals and added an assist, Letang had two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury rebounded from a couple off games to stop 35 of 37 shots to lead the Pittsburgh past Anaheim 6-2. The Pens tied a season high in goals that they had set just 3 games before, and the surging Pittsburgh offense has now scored 3+ goals in 8 of the 11 games during Crosby's point streak. They've also shot 10.9% during that time frame to bring their season total up to 7.9%. It certainly helps to have the best player in the game back playing at his best.

The Penguins struck quickly in the 1st period to take an early 1-0 lead. Sidney Crosby corralled a loose puck in the corner, fired a pass up to Letang at the blueline, and Chris Kunitz deflected the shot past Gibson to give Pittsburgh the lead. Midway through the period, the Penguins again increased the lead off Letang's stick. After preventing the Ducks from clearing the zone several times, Letang fired a shot wide of the goal that Conor Sheary managed to get a stick on and deflect through Gibson's legs. The Penguins' started the game with all the momentum, but the final minute of the period saw them need to snatch it back going into the intermission.

After a back and forth second half of the period, Anaheim managed to get on the board with 50 seconds remaining in the period. Ryan Getzlaf stripped Letang in the neutral zone while the Penguins were changing and he took the puck in and beat Marc-Andre Fleury short side to cut the lead to 2-1. It had the chance of giving Anaheim the momentum heading out of the break, but former Duck Carl Hagelin answered. Phil Kessel fed Hagelin with a nice pass to start him on a breakaway, and Hagelin took it to his backhand to roof the puck over Gibson's glove to return the lead to 2 just 33 seconds later.

The Pens opened up the 2nd period on the penalty kill after Letang took a boarding call on Jakob Silfverberg in the waning seconds of the 1st, but it was mostly uneventful as the Ducks weren't able to maintain any type of consistent pressure. Pittsburgh got a power play of its own minutes later as Getzlaf tripped Oskar Sundqvist coming out of the corner. The Pens were able to better maintain control of the puck in the offensive zone, but like Anaheim they were unable to convert the opportunity. The game appeared to be settling in until Crosby extended his goal scoring streak to 7 games on a breakaway. After blocking a shot at the blueline, Crosby took the loose puck up the ice before snapping a shot that beat Gibson 5 hole.

Pittsburgh looked to be taking a commanding 4-1 lead into the 2nd intermission, but a late period breakdown again gave the Ducks a chance to get back into things. After a Daley turnover on the rush in the offensive zone, the Ducks quickly moved the puck back up ice on 2 on 1. The Patrick Maroon shot from the right circle appeared to clip Brian Dumoulin before finding the back of the net behind Fleury. Just like after the first Ducks goal, the Pens made sure to quickly snuff out any momentum they could have found.

Sidney Crosby again found the back of the net early in the 3rd period to give him 2 goals on the night and 24 on the season, one more than Evgeni Malkin to pull him into the team lead. Again on the breakaway, Crosby took the puck in while being hooked by Cam Fowler and managed to rip a shot that beat Gibson glove side while being hooked to the ice. Minutes later, Crosby was wrapping up the 4 point night on a 3 on 1 breakaway when he set up Olli Maatta for a wrister form the slot that beat Gibson stick side. The Ducks finally called it a night on John Gibson, but the game was essentially over.

While the Ducks managed a slight advantage in possession with a 51.4 CF% at five on five, they did so while trailing by 2+ goals for the majority of the game. Accounting for score effects, and it was the Penguins who came out ahead in the possession game with a score adjusted 51.6 CF%. The win allowed the Pens to stay 4 points back of the Rangers for 2nd place in the Metro after New York beat the Devils tonight. Wednesday night's game at home against the Rangers will be a big game for Pittsburgh, as a win allows the Pens to pull within 2 points of the blueshirts with 30 games left in the season.

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