He showed why Wednesday night. Penner scored twice and Ilya Bryzgalov made 20 saves to lead Anaheim to a 3-1 victory over the sputtering Chicago Blackhawks. Corey Perry set up both of Penner's goals as first-place Anaheim reached 102 points, four ahead of both Dallas and San Jose in the Pacific Division.
Penner, third among NHL rookies with 28 goals, recorded his third two-goal game. On Friday, Penner played just two shifts in the second and none in the third period in Anaheim's 3-2 overtime win against Dallas.
"I've been riding the individual to the point where I'm going to have to quit or he's going to get better," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Tonight, he got better."
Carlyle said the Ducks need consistent offensive production from Penner, Perry and linemate Ryan Getzlaf to back up the offence from their top line of Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz.
"If we don't have secondary production, it makes it tough," Carlyle said. "They're good, big, skilled, young players.
"There shouldn't be a reason why they can't produce."
Penner, 24, was never drafted, and signed as a free agent with Anaheim in May 2004. Heading into this season, he had just one year of college hockey at the University of Maine and two minor pro years in the AHL.
Penner said he benefited from Carlyle's wake-up call. In nine games before Wednesday, he had two goals and two assists.
"Whenever you get benched, it's for a reason, so you have to take a look in the mirror, step back, refocus and see where you faltered," Penner said. "I would never had guessed I'd be in this situation (successful in the NHL), but I've got to stop thinking like that. I know what I have to do to play at this level.
"For me it's a little harder because I didn't have the junior hockey grooming, but I've got to learn as much as I can."
George Parros also scored for the Ducks, who won for the second time in five games after going 8-0-2 in their previous 10.
Radim Vrbata scored for Chicago, which lost its sixth straight and is tied with Phoenix for last in the Western Conference. Nikolai Khabibulin made 20 saves.
"I'm running our of answers here, but it's something we talk about every day," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "The guys that don't give the effort won't play.
"Tonight, I sat some guys in the third period because I didn't think they deserved to play, period."
Among the Blackhawks who saw reduced ice time in the final period were Jassen Cullimore, Jason Williams, Tony Salmelainen, Martin Lapointe and Tuomo Ruutu.
Vrbata's power-play goal with 1:30 left in the first opened the scoring. His shot on the short side from the right circle sailed past Bryzgalov's glove.
The goal was just Chicago's fourth in its last 46 power-play chances at home. The Blackhawks entered with the league's worst power play: a 12.2 per cent conversion rate overall and just 8.8 per cent at home.
Penner tied it 1-1 at 7:55 of the second. After taking a cross-ice pass from Perry, he beat Khabibulin between the legs with a low shot from the low edge of the right circle.
Penner converted a rebound of Perry's shot with 5:41 left in the second to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead and net the eventual game-winner.
After Khabibulin made a pad save on Perry's backhand shot, Penner ripped in the loose puck from the left edge of the crease.
Bryzgalov made several close-in saves in the second, including one on a breakaway by Patrick Sharp and point-blank tip-in attempt by Jason Williams.
Parros made it 3-1 with 6:42 left in the third when fired in a rebound of Brad May's shot.
Notes: Anaheim C Todd Marchant returned after missing 17 games with an abdominal strain. ... Ducks C Tim Brent, LW Shawn Thornton, RW Ryan Shannon, D Ric Jackman and G Sebastien Caron were healthy scratches. ... Chicago C Peter Bondra sat out with a sore shoulder. RW Nikita Alexeev was a healthy scratch.