- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan ranks Kris Letang as one of the top three defensemen in the NHL.

Letang justified that lofty praise in his return after missing five games with an upper-body injury, scoring a power-play goal and adding an assist as the Penguins defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-1 on Wednesday night.

Matt Murray stopped 32 shots in his season debut after breaking his hand during the World Cup of Hockey, while Patrick Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, Matt Cullen and Evgeni Malkin also scored for the Penguins.

Letang scored 1:27 into the third period for his first goal of the season, flashing offensive skills comparable to that of the Penguins‘ front-line stars. Taking a pass from Justin Schultz, Letang unleashed a quick wrist shot past a bewildered John Gibson.

Letang also had a backhanded shot that was deflected up and off the crossbar by Nick Bonino before Rust used his positioning in the crease to clean it up, extending the Penguins‘ lead to 3-1 late in the third period.

“He’s that impactful on the game,” Sullivan said of Letang. “He helps you get out of your own zone, he joins the rush, he makes plays off the rush. When he is in our lineup I think we’re obviously a much better team at both ends of the rink.”

Gibson made 29 saves, stopping a penalty shot by Scott Wilson in the third period after being bowled over by the Penguins forward. Gibson was replaced by Jonathan Bernier midway through the third period.

The Ducks have been outscored 9-1 in their last two home games, Hornqvist adding the final goal midway through the third period.

“You don’t want to dwell on it too much, it’s one hockey game, but the way we executed and some of the things we did out there were just out of character,” said Cam Fowler, who scored the Ducks’ lone goal. “We defended the whole time, gave them too much momentum and they were able to feed off it. They were able to do whatever they wanted to whenever they wanted to.”

Malkin put the Penguins ahead 7:41 into the first period, scoring his sixth goal of the season. Chris Kunitz intercepted a misplayed pass from Corey Perry to Kevin Bieksa at the blue line. Phil Kessel then found Malkin in the far circle winding up for the one-timer well before the puck left the tape on Kessel’s stick.

Malkin, Kessel and Sidney Crosby all extended their points streaks to four games, with Kessel collecting six of his team-leading seven assists in that span. Thirteen Penguins recorded a point, Letang the only one with more than one.

“We were on the puck all over the rink, and when we do that we’re hard to play against,” Sullivan said. “Overall it’s probably one of our more complete games this year.”

Cullen scored 2:33 later to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead on his 40th birthday. The Ducks challenged that Tom Sestito was offside when playing a long pass from Eric Fehr before setting up Cullen, but video review was inconclusive and the play stood as called. Ducks defenseman Josh Manson whiffed on his chance to bat the puck down with his glove as it passed through the neutral zone.

Ryan Kesler had an assist on Fowler’s goal for his 500th career point.

NOTES:

Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal against the Kings, Sullivan said.

Ducks: C Ryan Getzlaf and LW Nick Ritchie did not play and are day-to-day with upper-body injuries. . Fowler is fourth in franchise history for goals by a defenseman with 38, while his 20 power-play goals is tied with Chris Pronger for third among Ducks defensemen.

UP NEXT:

Penguins: Visit Los Angeles on Thursday.

Ducks: Host Arizona on Friday.

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