By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) NHL MVP Sidney Crosby scored twice and added an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-4 Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.READ MORE: Black Bear Spotted Roaming Near Rt. 981 In New Alexandria
Pascal Dupuis added a goal and three assists in his return from knee surgery for the Penguins, who rolled to victory in new coach Mike Johnston’s debut. Patrick Hornqvist, Blake Comeau and Brandon Sutter also scored for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves.
Corey Perry had a hat trick for the Ducks, who collapsed after erasing an early three-goal deficit. Ryan Kesler added a goal in his debut with Anaheim. John Gibson struggled while making his first start in his hometown, stopping 33 of 39 shots.
The Penguins underwent a massive overhaul following a fifth straight spring that ended without a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh fired coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero and brought in former Carolina Hurricanes executive Jim Rutherford, who hired the well-traveled Johnston and tasked him with making sure Crosby and Malkin’s primes don’t go to waste.
The early returns were promising.
Hornqvist, acquired from Nashville in a draft-day trade that sent talented but turbulent forward James Neal to the Predators, needed all of 5:16 to make a first impression. Playing alongside Crosby helped.
Crosby won a faceoff at the right dot and slipped a pass to Hornqvist at the top of the circle. The wrist shot deflected off Gibson’s arm and into the net and the Penguins seemed to exhale.
Crosby doubled the lead just over two minutes later, streaking down the left side and firing a shot that Gibson couldn’t get a handle on. The goal was the seventh in the 10 home openers during Crosby’s now decade-long career.
Dupuis, nine months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, tapped in a perfect setup from defenseman Olli Maatta to make it 3-0 before the season was 15 minutes old.READ MORE: Police Searching For Missing 82-Year-Old Merilyn Penn
The Ducks, however, quickly erased all the good vibes.
Anaheim underwent significant tweaks over the summer, when the best regular season in franchise history ended with another early postseason flameout. The Ducks acquired Kesler, a two-way forward and added center Nate Thompson, defenseman Clayton Stoner and veteran scorer Dany Heatley while Teemu Selanne retired and veteran goaltender Jonas Hiller walked in free agency.
The moves were made with making the Ducks more suited to the rough-and-tumble postseason. There are six long months to get there. The initial steps were wobbly, but Anaheim’s offense remains explosive.
The Ducks rallied to tie the game at three, with the Penguins doing their best to help Anaheim get back in it. Kesler scored his first for Anaheim with an easy power-play goal 14:22 into the first. Perry then pumped in two, including arguably the easiest goal he’ll score all year when Fleury ventured far from the net and Patrick Maroon stole the goaltender’s pass and sent it to Perry in front of an empty net.
Facing the first significant test in what will be a season full of them as they search for a new identity, the Penguins responded behind their captain.
Crosby finished off a 3-on-2 break by snapping a show low over Gibson’s blocker with 2:26 left in the second to put Pittsburgh back in front. Comeau, another offseason signing designed to give the Penguins depth along the third and fourth lines, pushed it to 5-3 just 54 seconds later.
Sutter restored Pittsburgh’s three-goal cushion with a short-handed breakaway 1:01 into the third as the Penguins began the Johnston era with a flourish.
NOTES: The Penguins are 22-19-6 all-time in season openers. … Johnston is the eighth coach in team history to begin his tenure with a victory. … Anaheim went 3 for 6 on the power play. The Penguins were 1 for 4 with the man advantage. … The Ducks are 5-16-0 in season openers. … Pittsburgh plays in Toronto on Saturday night. … The Ducks continue a season-opening four-game road trip Saturday in Detroit.MORE NEWS: South Hills Resident Rose Spencer Celebrates Her 100th Birthday
Updated October 9, 2014
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