Penguins easily dispatch Ducks, 5-1

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[November 03, 2016]  ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After just 10 games, the Pittsburgh Penguins appear to be hitting their stride.

Kris Letang had a goal and an assist in his first game in two weeks as the Penguins routed the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on Wednesday night in front of 15,543 at Honda Center.

Evgeni Malkin scored his sixth goal of the season, Sidney Crosby had an assist for his sixth point in four games and goalie Matt Murray stopped 32 shots in his season debut for the Penguins (7-2-1), who earned their fourth consecutive victory and their fifth in six games.

"That was probably our most complete, solid game," Penguins center Matt Cullen said. "Over the last few games, we weren't playing as well as we should be and as well as we can, but we were finding ways to win.

"Tonight was more of a team game. This is how we need to play. Tonight was the team that we see ourselves as, and the team we need to be if we want to sustain some success over a consistent period of time."

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan agreed.

"I thought we executed much better coming out of our end zone and we were on the puck all over the rink," Sullivan said. "When we do that we are hard to play against. Overall, it was probably one of our more complete games this year."

Goalie John Gibson allowed a season-high five goals while making 29 saves, and Cam Fowler scored the only goal for the Ducks (4-5-2). Jonathan Bernier replaced Gibson with 8:40 to play.

"It just seemed like we didn't have any energy," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "I thought we had a decent enough first period, then it just seemed to snowball. They were much quicker and they had a lot more energy than we did, that's for sure."

The one-sided loss at home was the Ducks' second after earning a significant victory the previous game -- in this case, a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. Last week, Anaheim suffered a 4-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets following a 6-1 rout of the Nashville Predators.

"It's inexcusable," Fowler said. "Two stinkers in a row at home is not good for a team that expects high things, like we do. Collectively as a group, we're just not there defensively."

With the Penguins holding a 3-1 lead, Letang scored 1:27 into the third period when he deflected Justin Schultz's shot from the right boards at the right post. Letang had missed the past five games after sustaining an upper-body injury Oct. 18 against the Montreal Canadiens.

"When he's in our lineup, we are a much better team at both ends of the rink," Sullivan said. "He helps you get out of your zone. He joins the rush. He makes plays off the rush. But I think what flies under the radar is how well he defends. He defends extremely well with his stick, his skating and his smarts. He's an elite player."

Crosby has four goals and two assists after helping Patrick Hornqvist end the scoring with 12:46 to play. Carl Hagelin passed the puck behind his back from behind the Ducks' net to Crosby, whose pass in front of the crease found Hornqvist for a wrist shot near the right post.

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 Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) is defended by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ian Cole (28) in the second period during a NHL hockey match at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh scored twice in less than three minutes to take a 2-0 lead early in the first period. Chris Kunitz began the scoring sequence on Malkin's goal by securing a loose puck at the blue line near the left boards. Kunitz passed to Phil Kessel at the left point, then Kessel passed to Malkin, who one-timed a slap shot from the right face-off circle at 7:41.

At 10:24, Matt Cullen one-timed another slap shot from the right face-off circle for his third goal. Eric Fehr started the play by flipping the puck from the Penguins' zone over three of the Ducks' skaters to Tom Sestito at Anaheim's blue line. Sestito over-skated the puck but spun around to send a cross-ice pass to Cullen.

The Ducks narrowed their deficit to 2-1 at 15:49 of the first period on Fowler's power-play goal, a slap shot from the blue line. Ryan Kesler earned his 500th career point on Fowler's fourth goal.

Bryan Rust extended the Penguins' lead to 3-1 at 16:42 of the second period when he converted the rebound of Nick Bonino's backhand shot that ricocheted off the crossbar into the crease.

After Letang's goal, Pittsburgh had a chance for another goal when Scott Wilson received a penalty shot after Anaheim defenseman Clayton Stoner tripped him on a breakaway. Wilson hit the left post on the chance. Hornqvist then ended the scoring at 7:14.

NOTES: Pittsburgh scratched RW Tom Kuhnhackl and D David Warsofsky. ... Penguins LW Conor Sheary skated Tuesday for the first time since being hit in the eye with a stick Oct. 18 against the Montreal Canadiens. Doctors have not yet cleared Sheary for contact. ... Wednesday marked Penguins C Matt Cullen's 40th birthday. Cullen played his first 5 1/2 NHL seasons with the former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. ... The Penguins traded G Mike Condon to the Ottawa Senators for a fifth-round draft pick. Condon played just one period for Pittsburgh this season. ... Anaheim scratched C Ryan Getzlaf and D Korbinian Holzer, as well as LW Nick Ritchie, who was hit in the head by Los Angeles Kings D Tom Gilbert on Tuesday night. Getzlaf has an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. ... The Ducks placed LW Mason Raymond on unconditional waivers and assigned G Dustin Tokarski to San Diego (AHL). They also recalled C Michael Sgarbossa and RW Ondrej Kase from San Diego.

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