It wasn't pretty, but it was a win, and the Pittsburgh Penguins should be grateful for it.
The Penguins began their 2014-15 campaign on October 8th, facing one of the top teams from the Western Conference. The Anaheim Ducks were in town, a team with Stanley Cup aspirations of their own. Everyone expected an entertaining game between two league powerhouses, and the two didn't disappoint. When the feathers settled, the Penguins edged the Ducks 6-4.
The Penguins rattled off the first three goals...newcomer Patric Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby, and Pascal Dupuis all finding the net in the first period. While Ryan Kesler scored late, the Penguins seemed to have the game well in hand.
Anaheim rallied in the second, thanks to some undisciplined play by the Penguins. Pittsburgh practically gift-wrapped the comeback for the Ducks, as Anaheim found the net three times on the power play in the game. In the end, however, the Penguins proved too much, rebuilding their three goal lead on goals by Crosby (his second of the game), Brandon Sutter, and Blake Comeau. In addition to his goal, Dupuis added three assists in his first game back after sustaining a serious knee injury last season.
Corey Perry recorded three goals for the Ducks to go along with Kesler's single. It was the sixth three goal game of Perry's career.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves for the win. John Gibson faced 39 shots, stopping 33.
Rolling Into Toronto
The Penguins, lucky to weather the collapse of their penalty kill, then took their game on the road. Crosby led the Penguins into the Air Canada Center to face the Toronto Maple Leafs October 11. The result? A resounding message to the rest of the league that the new-look Penguins are for real. The Pens took it to the Leafs, dropping them 5-2.
Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. Goals by Patric Hornqvist, Crosby, and Chris Kunitz left the Leafs and their fans reeling. Although the Maple Leafs managed to score two goals of their own, with Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozek finding the net, it was too little, too late. Goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter finished off the night and the Leafs.
The Penguins outshot the Leafs 41-25. Fleury recorded the win, while Jonathan Bernier got tagged with the loss.
Crosby has started the new season with a sizzling start. He has six points in two games, notching three points against the Leafs. His linemate, Patric Hornqvist, has impressed so far in this young season. He has opened the scoring in each of the first two games, and recorded multiple points both times. He, Crosby, and Kunitz have meshed so far as a line.
The Penguins' power play is clicking at a 44.4% conversion rate. Their penalty kill is a little sluggish, operating at 55% efficiency.
The Penguins' next challenge comes Thursday evening when the Dallas Stars come to town. Game time is 8:00pm EST.