Pens seek to rebound vs. Ducks in matchup of NHL's best
(SportsNetwork.com) - It hasn't been the best of road trips for the Pittsburgh Penguins and things won't get easier on Friday night when they visit the Anaheim Ducks in a matchup between the two conference leaders in the NHL.
The Penguins kicked off a five-game swing with a trip to Soldier Field in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks. They lost that outdoor game 5-1 on Feb. 1 before rebounding to best the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
The Pens resumed their trip last night looking to win for the first time in San Jose since 1997, but saw the Sharks score four times in the third period en route to a 5-3 setback.
Rookie Olli Maatta had two goals for the Penguins, who are 0-9-1 with a tie in their past 11 games in San Jose. Pittsburgh backup Jeff Zatkoff was tested often by the Sharks and finished with 42 saves on 46 shots.
However, Zatkoff fanned with the glove on Joe Thornton's tie-breaking goal. Thornton let a rather innocuous looking wrister go from just inside the blue line at the left point that eluded the netminder with 5:39 remaining.
"We did a good job in the first half of the game and then made it easy for them in the second half of the game," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said.
Pittsburgh has lost four of its past five overall, but still leads the Metropolitan Division by 14 points over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Penguins, with 86 points, are one ahead of the Boston Bruins for the most in the Eastern Conference and trail the NHL and Western Conference-leading Ducks by six points.
San Jose's win over Pittsburgh pulled the Sharks to within five points of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division as Anaheim had a three-game win streak halted with Wednesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Tim Jackman, Francois Beauchemin, and Daniel Winnik scored for the Ducks, while Jonas Hiller posted 28 saves in defeat.
"We came out a little slow and had to start catching up," said Hiller. "We weren't focused enough, starting from me all the way up front."
Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne missed the game with the flu.
The Ducks had won two in a row over the Penguins before a 3-1 setback in Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. It was the Pens' fifth victory in the past seven meetings overall, though they have lost six of their last seven in Anaheim.
Hiller is 2-2-0 with a 3.02 goals against average in his career versus the Penguins, though he did not face them back in November.
Pittsburgh starter Marc-Andre Fleury did get the start on that day and made 27 saves. He improved to 5-2-0 with a 2.30 GAA lifetime versus the Ducks.
03/07 10:59:04 ET