By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — Fresh off a 10-game homestand, the Ducks returned to the road, where success has been even harder to come by, even when victory is seemingly within their grasp.
Jake Guentzel scored 33 seconds into overtime after the Pittsburgh Penguins staged a late rally to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Ducks on Monday night.
John Klingberg’s short-handed goal with 8:46 left in regulation pulled the Ducks even and when Trevor Zegras pounded home a shot from the slot a little more than four minutes later, the Ducks (12-27-5) found themselves with a chance to win just their fifth road game of the season.
The Penguins’ Bryan Rust tied it with 25 seconds remaining in regulation and Guentzel won it with his 18th goal of the season as Pittsburgh snapped a two-game slide.
Jason Zucker scored his 11th goal this season on his 31st birthday and Evgeni Malkin added his 15th for Pittsburgh. Casey DeSmith stopped 26 shots to win for just the second time in his last seven starts.
Pittsburgh turned up the pressure late and Rust broke through to help the Penguins escape.
Adam Henrique also scored for the Ducks. John Gibson, a Pittsburgh native, played well in his return to his hometown. Gibson stopped 42 shots but didn’t have an answer when Guentzel broke in on him late and scored with a wrist shot from in close.
The Ducks are again destined for the NHL draft lottery, while the Penguins have been postseason regulars for the better part of two decades.
Yet Pittsburgh has reached the season’s midway point struggling to play with any consistency. Injuries along the blue line to veteran defenseman Kris Letang and Jeff Petry haven’t helped. Their absence has dampened Pittsburgh’s firepower and contributed to a sluggish stretch in which goals have been hard to come by.
Pittsburgh called up forward Jonathan Gruden to help bring a little bit of energy to the fourth line and the rookie dinged the post with a shot in the first period,
Zucker, whose spirited play has been one of the few bright spots of late, gave the Penguins the lead 4:16 into the first. Henrique tied it 17:50 into the first when he finished off a flurry in front of the Pittsburgh net by flipping a rebound by DeSmith, who had turned aside a pair of shots but was on all fours when Henrique tapped in the power-play goal.
Malkin put Pittsburgh in front 8:46 into the second when he tucked the puck past a sprawled Gibson.
DeSmith, who has been shaky of late – he was pulled after just seven minutes in a loss to Winnipeg on Friday – was solid until the later stages of the third period when Klingberg and Zegras put the Ducks in front to nearly pull off a stunner.
Ducks: Continue their lengthy road trip Tuesday in Philadelphia.
More to come on this story.