The Pittsburgh Penguins' unblemished road record in October helped them match the best opening month in NHL history. Their visits to California in recent years, however, have been anything but pleasant.
The Penguins have one road victory against the state's three clubs in the past decade, a trend they'll look to change on a four-game trip that starts Tuesday night in Anaheim, where the struggling Ducks have won five straight versus the Stanley Cup champions.
Pittsburgh (11-3-0) has been both impressive and a bit fortunate away from Mellon Arena this season, winning each of its first six games but needing a shootout to escape three of them.
The Penguins' first road game in 16 days -- and their first game without the injured Evgeni Malkin -- came Friday in Columbus, where two goals in a 39-second span late in the third period helped them bounce back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime. After five scoreless minutes, Sidney Crosby scored the lone shootout goal to give Pittsburgh a 4-3 win, lifting its record to 4-0 in games decided that way behind his four goals in as many attempts.
That victory gave the Penguins 22 points, tying them with seven other teams for the best opening month in league history. Back home Saturday, however, they couldn't break the record. Pittsburgh outshot Minnesota 35-15 and played what coach Dan Bylsma called "as close to a perfect game of 5-on-5 as we've played," but lost 2-1.
"It's weird how hockey works sometimes," said Crosby, who had a six-game point streak snapped. "We played probably one solid period (Friday) and found a way to get two points, and then tonight we played three good periods and they kind of steal one from us."
The Penguins can match Toronto (1940-41), Philadelphia (1985-86), Detroit (2005-06) and this season's New Jersey Devils for the second-best road start in NHL history with a win against the Ducks, but they'll have to reverse some recent history to do so.
Pittsburgh is 1-11-3 with a tie since Jan. 16, 1999, at Anaheim (4-6-2), Los Angeles and San Jose -- its first three opponents on this trip before closing in Boston.
They'll also be without Malkin (shoulder), defenseman Sergei Gonchar (broken wrist) and perhaps forward Tyler Kennedy (undisclosed injury).
"We should have some time to focus on our game and this is a trip you circle," Bylsma told the Penguins' official Web site. "This is a good time for our team to go out on the road."
Anaheim has hardly lived up to its own expectations early on after taking Detroit to seven games in last season's Western Conference semifinals. Yet, while the Ducks are 1-4-1 in their last six and tied for the fewest points in the West, they have earned points their last two times out.
Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan each scored twice in a 7-2 rout of Vancouver on Friday, but Perry's eighth goal of the season wasn't enough Saturday in a 3-2 shootout loss at Phoenix.
"Right now, we're taking one shift at a time and small steps," said center Todd Marchant, who has no points. "We just need to keep moving forward. I thought we played a solid road game, and can take positives from the effort."
Crosby has two assists in two games against Anaheim, while Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has two goals and two assists in three versus Pittsburgh.