His return was a success. Teammate Andrew Cogliano scored a short-handed goal with 1:27 left in the third period and Mathieu Garon made 31 saves for the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-2 shootout win on Sunday night.
To top it off, Penner was presented with his Stanley Cup ring by Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli and general manager Brian Burke after the game in coach Randy Carlyle's office.
"I didn't know what to anticipate," Penner said. "You never fully understand what it's going to be like until you come back. That first period was just a lot of emotions and memories running through my mind. Seeing the Ducks jerseys on the other side of the bench and knowing I'm wearing an Oilers one, it was an interesting feeling."
The Oilers faced the Ducks for the first time since luring the second-year forward away from Anaheim with a US$21.25-million, five-year offer sheet that Burke declined to match. The move triggered an ugly public spat between Burke and Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe, who watched Sunday's game from adjacent suites in the press box without speaking to each other.
"Certainly we were aware of it and the comments that were made, but I didn't think it really carried over to tonight," Ducks forward Andy McDonald said. "I don't think there's any bad blood. I mean, we're a physical team and we want to play hard against every team regardless if there's anything going on off the ice. That's just a distraction."
Penner's contract pays him $3.8 million more this season than the $450,000 he earned last season, when he was second on the team with 29 goals and set franchise rookie records for goals and points.
Penner has two goals and three assists in 12 games with the Oilers. Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Penner's linemates last season, have combined for nine goals and 11 assists in Anaheim's first 13 games. Carlyle has tried at least six left wings on the line.
"It was hard to see him go, but that's the nature of the business," McDonald said. "I've witnessed a lot of guys coming and going, but that's part of the NHL. The offer sheet is in the CBA, so that's changed things a lot and you've got to accept it and roll with it."
Penner didn't receive a warm welcome from the sellout crowd of 17,174, most of whom booed him whenever he touched the puck. The booing intensified during a timeout at 9:23 of the first period when the video board showed him standing at the bench and flashed the words "Welcome Dustin Penner."
"There's always a couple of guys each year that defect from a Stanley Cup team and go to another one, and not too many have done it that way," Penner said. "If I was them, I'd be booing, too. But being in my position, I know better. It doesn't affect me one way or another. I didn't have much to do with it, other than signing a piece of paper."
Ales Hemsky also scored for Edmonton and connected in the shootout to seal the victory after Sam Gagner opened the tiebreaker with a goal against Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Garon made his third start with the Oilers, who signed him in July.
The Oilers pulled even when Cogliano parked himself in the low slot and tipped Geoff Sanderson's long slap shot past Giguere's stick for his third career goal and second short-handed. It came while teammate Steve Staios served a high-sticking penalty.
"It's disappointing. We lost a point," Carlyle said. "I think the way we lost it - on a short-handed goal with 1:27 left - puts an exclamation mark on it, from that standpoint. We just seem to be snake-bitten."
Chris Kunitz and Corey Perry scored for the Ducks (4-7-2), whose fourth straight loss equalled their longest skid of last season. Getzlaf, who led Anaheim with five goals against Edmonton last season, sat out his second straight game because of an injured left wrist. Rob Niedermayer was sidelined for the third game due to a groin injury, and Todd Bertuzzi missed his sixth game with a concussion.
The Oilers had limited Anaheim to nine shots until Kunitz tied it 1-1 at 11:51 of the second period with a short wrist shot past Garon's glove.
Perry scored on a one-timer from the slot after Andy McDonald set him up with a pass from the right corner.
Hemsky opened the scoring at 12:41 of the first period.
Notes: The Oilers were 0-for-4 on the power play, and are an NHL-worst 3-for-48 with the man advantage. The Ducks have one goal in 31 short-handed situations at home. ... The Oilers have allowed at least one third-period goal in eight straight games.