Penguins, Ducks aim to build off comeback wins in OT

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins have the longest active playoff streak in the NHL, reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons, but there are no guarantees that will continue.

As they hit the ice in Anaheim on Friday to face the Ducks, the Penguins know the full value of kicking off a four-game road swing on the right note.

The Penguins, who have a 4-3-3 record in their last 10 games, have something to build on after they came out of the All-Star break and claimed a 2-1 overtime victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

“We’ve talked to them about hitting the reset button from a mindset standpoint, getting excited about the opportunities that we have in front of us, and the challenges we have in front of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Our most meaningful hockey is in front of us and we got to get excited about it. It’s also going to be our hardest hockey.”

Defeating the reigning Stanley Cup champion Avalanche showed the kind of resilience the Penguins need while in a dogfight for a playoff berth. Pittsburgh erased a third-period deficit before Kris Letang scored the winner.

“It’s definitely a really good stepping stone,” said forward Bryan Rust, who scored the tying goal late in regulation. “We got to learn some good lessons from this, but consistency is key right now. We’ve been harping on our consistency, and I think we got to walk the walk here and put that into motion.”

Letang has scored the overtime winner in both of Pittsburgh’s last two wins.

“It’s well-chronicled that Tanger’s had a tough first half in so many different ways,” Sullivan said. “So we’re certainly thrilled for him for a lot of reasons. He’s just so important to our team.”

The Ducks are coming off a comeback victory of their own, a 3-2 overtime road win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, which came one night after Anaheim dropped a 3-2 shootout affair in Dallas. It’s not an easy way to come out of the break, but the rebuilding young team put its best foot forward.

“I think (it’s) just mindset,” forward Frank Vatrano said. “You’re obviously not going to feel too good even if you come off an eight-day break. A back-to-back is a back-to-back. This is a tough league no matter who you’re playing against. Every night is a challenge. We knew we were going to have a tough challenge ahead, and we just kept our heads in it.”

The Ducks may sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division but they have not completely thrown in the towel. They have a 4-0-1 mark in their last five games.

“That was like air coming out of a balloon there,” coach Dallas Eakins said of earning the most recent victory. “I think the schedule is really tough for all the teams coming off the break. For us to come back and have to play back-to-back is extremely hard. It’s one thing we have been this year, really resilient. We just kept our head down and kept swinging.”

There was no word Thursday whether Ducks All-Star forward Troy Terry, injured in Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars before missing the Chicago game, would be available to face the Penguins. Terry is second on the team with 42 points.

–Field Level Media

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