Rookie Gibbons' first goal sparks Penguins to win over Ducks
With another deflating loss looking likely following a lifeless first period, the Penguins suddenly found themselves.
Maybe they found a player, too.
Brian Gibbons, playing in his first NHL game, triggered a third-period outburst of goals as the Penguins defeated Anaheim, 3-1, on Monday at Consol Energy Center.
Gibbons' take on how the Penguins snapped out of their funk was simple.
“I figured we had to shoot the puck,” he said.
That was logical given that it took the Penguins 18 minutes to put a shot on goal.
Captain Sidney Crosby, who scored his 10th goal of the season to cement the win in the third period, was able to joke about the team's inability to get a shot. When Beau Bennett finally put a puck on net with two minutes left in the first period, fans broke into mock applause.
“It was nice for the crowd to get into it there,” Crosby said. “I didn't think that was how we were going to get them into it.”
The Penguins got going with hard work.
All three goals were illustrations of the Penguins doing what they've been avoiding in recent games. They have lost four of their past six games, scoring one goal in each of those losses.
Staying on the perimeter has been an issue for the Penguins, but net-front presence helped them ice the victory.
Gibbons planted himself in the high slot in the third period while Tanner Glass stood in front of the net.
Evgeni Malkin, who had just skated onto the ice, took the puck and skated almost entirely around the perimeter of Anaheim's zone.
“It was my first shift ever with him,” Gibbons said. “I just wanted to make sure I went toward the net.”
Malkin finally found Gibbons, and he made no mistake.
Next, Sutter went to the net and deflected Olli Maatta's shot to make it 2-0.
Then, with the Penguins up 2-1 later in the third, Malkin and Chris Kunitz were in front of the net when Crosby floated a wrist shot past goaltender Viktor Fasth.
“We kept doing the right things out there,” Crosby said.
Coach Dan Bylsma will make sure the Penguins continue to see the worth of going to the net.
“We will see these goals tomorrow (on video) and note the net-front presence,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma reconfigured his top three lines before the game — Bennett played with Crosby and Kunitz, Malkin centered James Neal and Pascal Dupuis, and Sutter centered Gibbons and Jussi Jokinen — but the theme in the locker room following the victory was simple: Line combinations don't matter.
Bylsma called Anaheim “a tough matchup,” and Crosby said the Ducks “are a great defensive team that didn't give us much.”
The Penguins, locked in a scoreless tie into the third period, used brute force instead of finesse to take a victory. It might be a blueprint for future success.