Bylsma finds right combo as Penguins beat Ducks, 3-1
November 19, 2013 12:18 AM
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stops a shot by the Ducks' Nick Bonino in the second period at Consol Energy Center.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma had watched his team score one goal in four of its previous five games and knew something had to change.
So Monday night, he made sure that at least one thing, the makeup of his forward lines, did.
And while the early results couldn't have been encouraging -- the Penguins needed nearly 18 minutes to register their first shot on goal -- Bylsma's personnel juggling eventually was rewarded with three third-period goals in a 3-1 victory against the Anaheim Ducks at Consol Energy Center.
The ice-breaker came from rookie Brian Gibbons, who was playing in his first NHL game, and he followed that with an assist on the Penguins' second goal just 62 seconds later.
Not the most spectacular debut in NHL history, perhaps, but not a bad way for a guy to kick off his career at this level, either.
"That's a great start," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
And even though Gibbons seemed rather subdued after converting an Evgeni Malkin feed at 3:52 of the third period, that doesn't mean he didn't enjoy it.
"I don't usually show a lot of emotion," he said. "But on the inside, I'm pretty happy."
So were his teammates, who won for just the second time in six games.
The Penguins improved to 13-8 and reclaimed first place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of Washington. The Penguins and Capitals will meet Wednesday night at Verizon Center in Washington.
Gibbons's performance in his NHL debut was noteworthy, but so was the Penguins shutting out someone who was playing in his 1,405th: Anaheim winger Teemu Selanne, making what figures to be his final regular-season appearance here, was held without a point for just the second time in 22 career games against the Penguins.
Of course, most of his teammates didn't have much luck against Marc-Andre Fleury, either. He stopped 27 of 28 shots and made some of his best saves in the third period, denying Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano on quality opportunities when the outcome was in doubt.
"Both teams had chances [in the third]," Penner said. "They capitalized on theirs."
The only goal Fleury allowed came when Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks was left alone in front of the net, which is a lot like giving LeBron James an uncontested layup.
The Getzlaf goal, at 5:20 of the third period, sliced the Penguins' lead to 2-1 and capped a run of three goals in one minute, 28 seconds.
That's an eye-catching outburst under any circumstances, but especially when neither team had been able to score for the previous 43 minutes and 51 seconds.
Gibbons opened the scoring at 3:52 of the third, as he moved down the slot and took a feed from Malkin in the right circle before throwing a shot past Ducks goalie Viktor Fasth from between the hash marks.
"He wasn't looking but, somehow, he knew I was there and put it right on my stick," Gibbons said.
That marked the first time in six games the Penguins got the first goal.
Just 62 seconds later, they also got the second, as Brandon Sutter deflected an Olli Maatta shot out of the air and past Fasth.
The crowd still was celebrating Sutter's goal when Getzlaf revived Anaheim, but Crosby put a shot through traffic and past Fasth from the top of the right circle at 7:56 to close out the scoring.
Bylsma, in an effort to kick-start the offense, had opened the game with these line combinations: Chris Kunitz-Crosby-Beau Bennett, Pascal Dupuis-Malkin-James Neal, Jussi Jokinen-Sutter-Gibbons and Tanner Glass-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams, then tweaked them throughout the game.
"There was a lot of mixing-and-matching, but I thought everybody played hard," Crosby said. "I don't think it matters who you play with. When everyone's moving like that, we're tough to play against."
Perhaps, although the results of the shake-up weren't immediately evident to on the scoresheet.
Anaheim launched 12 shots at Fleury before Bennett recorded the Penguins' first of the game, with 2:02 left in the opening period.
"It took a while, eh?" Fleury said, smiling.
Took even longer for the Penguins to get a puck past Fasth, but when that finally happened, they did it three times in a little more than four minutes.
And, along the way, they were reminded that they can win a low-scoring game against a quality opponent.
"That's the type of game we've been having a tough time with," Sutter said. "To find a way to win and get some goals and not panic, not make mistakes, that's a good win for us."
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