PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jake Guentzel has played with Sidney Crosby long enough to know he needs to get to the net when he sees Pittsburgh’s captain take a defenseman wide.
Guentzel was at the right place when he scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
Guentzel finished Crosby’s backhand feed from the slot at 7:24 of the third.
“You’re just so used to it now,” Guentzel said. “With the strength he has, you just kind of think he’ll get by the defenseman. He comes in, beats a guy and then makes a great play, not really looking. It’s just a special play and I was happy to be on the end of it.”
Guentzel has five goals in five career games against the Ducks, including his second career hat trick last season.
Crosby also scored a power-play goal, his second of the season. Crosby, who opened the season on a four-game point streak, has multiple points in five of his last 10 games against Anaheim.
“I thought he was a force at both ends of the ice,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “His line scored both goals and his line was on the ice when we’re defending the lead and they pulled their goalie. I just think he’s the best 200-foot player in the game right now.”
Matt Murray made 31 saves for the Penguins. He needs one more win to reach 100 in the NHL.
Pittsburgh concluded a season-opening, four-game homestand with a 2-2 record. The Penguins have won nine of their last 12 home games against Anaheim and nine of the last 13 overall versus the Ducks.
Ondrej Kase scored his first of the season for Anaheim, which tried to open a season with four straight wins for the first time in franchise history. The Ducks, who entered the NHL as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993-94, started 3-0 last season and also in 2006-07, when they won the Stanley Cup.
John Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, stopped 26 shots. He allowed more than one goal for the first time this season.
“Obviously, you want to win every game, but it was a tough one,” Gibson said. “(Pittsburgh) played well. We have to give them credit. They’re down a lot of guys and they played hard.”
Four of Pittsburgh’s top nine forwards were out of the lineup.
Evgeni Malkin, the 2012 NHL MVP, was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Alex Galchenyuk, acquired in an offseason trade with Phil Kessel, was placed on injured reserve a day earlier, while Nick Bjugstad missed his second game and Bryan Rust has been out since the start of the season. Patric Hornqvist was a game-time decision with a lower-body injury sustained Tuesday against Winnipeg, but he started on the Penguins’ second line.
“We have a lot of guys going in and out with injuries,” Guentzel said. “You just have to stick with it.”
Crosby opened the scoring 2:57 into the second period. He redirected Kris Letang’s point shot over Gibson’s pad from the side of the crease. Letang opened the season with points in four straight games for the second time in his career.
Kase tied the game for Anaheim 30 seconds later. Murray went briefly off his post and Kase squeezed a shot between his pad and blocker from the bottom of the left circle.
Pittsburgh went back on the power play with a two-man advantage for 61 seconds, but couldn’t manage a shot on goal. Dominik Kahun had a breakaway later in the period, but he rung a shot off the crossbar.
Crosby and Guentzel came through for the Penguins in the third period.
“I knew (Crosby) had his guy wide,” Guentzel said. “I was just trying to get there. Obviously, it was a great pass by him. I was just lucky to be there at the right time.”
NOTES: Ducks F Ryan Getzlaf tied Corey Perry for the franchise lead in games played at 988. … Letang is three points from becoming the first defenseman in franchise history and ninth active to 500 points. He is two games from tying Jean Pronovost for fifth on the team’s game’s played list. … Rust worked out before the Penguins’ morning skate on Thursday. . Penguins D Erik Gudbranson was scratched in favor of John Marino, who made his NHL debut on Tuesday. .. Crosby has points in 15 of 17 career games against Anaheim.
Ducks: Continue a four-game road trip Friday at Columbus.
Penguins: Play their first road game at Minnesota on Saturday.