ANAHEIM - Few teams in the NHL can match the Pittsburgh Penguins' skill and stifle it. Few teams can have their former Hart Trophy winner go head-to-head with Pittsburgh's.
The Anaheim Ducks were that team for most of Friday night, but the Penguins willed themselves through one of their most frustrating games of the season and went home with a 3-2 shootout win in front of a season-high 17,518 at Honda Center. Brandon Sutter scored in the sixth round of the tiebreaker against Jonas Hiller and Ryan Getzlaf missed his ensuing attempt against Marc-Andre Fleury to end the thrilling game that served as a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.
It was a hard-earned two points for Pittsburgh, which finished with a season-low 17 shots on goal one night after a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in which captain Sidney Crosby was a career-worst minus-5.
"I think we're trying to evaluate ourselves based on how we're playing, not always the result," Crosby said. "You're going in to win, but you also want to do things right. With that said, I think we did some good things here - some things better than we might have done last night in the second half of the game and didn't make those big mistakes that hurt us last night.
"[Anaheim] is a good hockey team. You really have to work for your chances. We did a good job of that. Hopefully we can build off of it here."
The Ducks got two goals from Corey Perry to steal the spotlight from Crosby, who played his first game in Anaheim since 2010 and was kept quiet until Hiller stoned him on an overtime breakaway. Hampus Lindholm and Getzlaf also missed jaw-dropping chances in the final minute of overtime.
Perry also scored in the third round of the shootout to keep Anaheim alive. Crosby stickhandled through Hiller's legs and Sutter and Chris Kunitz scored on nifty backhands to ignite cheers from the scores of Penguins fans in attendance.
Despite the lost point, Hiller said "I thought it was a fun game to play even though they didn't have a lot of shots, which sometimes is a little tough. But I thought crowd was into it, and I thought it was a really, really good hockey game to watch and be part of."
Evgeni Malkin finally jolted Pittsburgh alive and forced a 2-2 tie with a snap shot to the left side of the net at 8:57 of the third on a Penguins power play. Hiller was screened by Kunitz.
Until then, Pittsburgh was stalled on offense. Crosby finished with one shot and Kunitz had none after their line was defended by Getzlaf's and Anaheim's shutdown line of Daniel Winnik, Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano.
"They did a really good job of not only holding their own, but I thought they had great chances as well," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.
"Take away [Pittsburgh's] power play, and I think they had 10 or 11 shots, which is great. We followed the game plan to a tee, and we played really good. We just lost in a shootout."
Perry, the 2010 Hart Trophy winner, finished a great play by Anaheim's top line when he roofed a short backhand tap pass from Getzlaf to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead 70 seconds into the third period. His 34th goal moved him into second among NHL goal-scoring leaders.
Perry's first goal was an impressive play in which he held up, gave the puck to Getzlaf and went to the net to tap in Getzlaf's rebound from near his feet 3:54 into the game.
Anaheim effectively clogged the neutral zone and didn't allow many clean entries to Pittsburgh, which went nearly 10 minutes without putting a shot on goal to start the second period.
Malkin was the only Penguins forward to record a shot on goal until James Neal sent a wrister on Hiller with 5:48 left in the second. Pittsburgh was being outshot 19-3 midway through the game and 23-7 after two periods. The Penguins looked way out of sync at times, specifically passes to no one by Crosby and Brooks Orpik, but Neal hit a post and Malkin was robbed by a Hiller kick save in a second period that ended 1-1.
"I don't know if there was a switch between the second and the third as much as the second half of the game," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "Clearly [in] the first half of the game, they had their opportunities, they had chances where they're good at, which is on the rush. We got back into the game … we talked about playing that tight game, that 1-1 type of game. That's what we got ourselves back into. I really liked the response."
Neither goalie looked sharp early. Hiller only saw three shots in the first period, and one of them was a soft goal to Derek Engelland that made it 1-1 at first intermission. Engelland grabbed a loose puck from the top of the circles and wristed it five-hole at 7:47.
"I just picked it up late," Hiller said. "I don't know if our guys were in front of me … I was just a split second too late."
Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa left the game with a lower-body injury in the first period and did not return.
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