|TOR||2||2||1||(0 - 0)||5|
|PIT||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing the team with the NHL's worst record, before a small crowd on a post-holiday Monday night. The opportunity for a letdown was enormous.
Not a chance.
Joe Nieuwendyk scored a goal and set up another, and the Maple Leafs quickly took care of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-0 victory that ended their four-game winless streak.
Nieuwendyk, Tie Domi and Alexei Ponikarovsky had multiple-point games to support backup goalie Trevor Kidd's first shutout in more than two years. Kidd turned aside 25 shots in only his fourth game this season and second victory. Ed Belfour sat out with a leg injury sustained Sunday in practice that isn't believed to be serious.
Kidd's last previous shutout was a 2-0 victory against Buffalo on Nov. 16, 2001, while with Florida.
"We had to make ourselves ready to play," Kidd said. "It's not like preparing for the Flyers or Ottawa, but we really tried to prepare our game and make sure we were ready to go."
It showed, even though the Maple Leafs also played without forward Owen Nolan, who had laser surgery Monday to repair a torn retina in his left eye. He is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
"It's not easy to lose Owen and Ed, but Trevor stepped up and played a great game," Nieuwendyk said. "One guy goes out and another guy comes in and it seems to really help the team, and that's what you have to have to go a long way."
Toronto leads the Eastern Conference with 55 points, but had gone 0-2-2 following a seven-game unbeaten streak. The Maple Leafs are 2-0 against the Penguins this season and have beaten them four straight times over the last two seasons.
"It's not easy playing those games you're supposed to win and should win, but we came out and carried the play for most of the night," Nieuwendyk said. "These points are valuable as the year wears on."
Pittsburgh, which has an NHL-low nine victories and 26 points, has been outscored 15-2 in losing its last three home games and is 1-7-1-1 in its last 10 overall.
"I think up to this point, we've had a good effort," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "I think this was the first time all year guys got away from our (defensive) system, and you've got to stick to it. We've got a lot of young guys, but how long can you use that excuse?"
The talent-thin Penguins have occasionally been tough on some of the NHL's top-record teams in Pittsburgh, but the Maple Leafs prevented that by opening a 3-0 lead early in the second period.
On all three goals, the Maple Leafs used their speed to create easy scoring changes against the league's worst defensive team. Pittsburgh has allowed 144 goals, 10 more than any other team.
Nieuwendyk cut through defensemen Dick Tarnstrom and Drake Berehowsky with little opposition to beat goalie Sebastien Caron three minutes into the game for his 10th of the season.
Domi also was virtually undefended when he made it 2-0 slightly less than nine minutes later, skating down the slot to take Matt Stajan's pass and easily beat Caron for his fourth goal.
"We were on our heels again," Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. "We got away for quite a long time from that pattern of having bad starts ... early in the year, teams were scoring on us early. Sometimes when you're pressing and frustrated you try to do too much."
Aki Berg scored his second of the season, both against Pittsburgh, off Mats Sundin's pass from behind the net early in the second period. Tomas Kaberle scored later in the period off Nieuwendyk's across-the-slot pass for his second goal and first since Oct. 30.
Nathan Perrott got his first goal of the season and second of his career in the third period, stealing Caron's attempted clearing pass and putting in his own rebound.
|Joe Nieuwendyk (10) Wrist shot - ASST: Alexei Ponikarovsky (6), Thomas Fitzgerald (7)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Tie Domi (4) Backhand shot - ASST: Matt Stajan (8), Alexei Ponikarovsky (7)|
2 - 0 TOR
|Aki Berg (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Mats Sundin (25), Mikael Renberg (8)|
3 - 0 TOR
|Tomas Kaberle (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Joe Nieuwendyk (14), Tie Domi (8)|
4 - 0 TOR
|Nathan Perrott (1) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE|
5 - 0 TOR
|Rico Fata Hi-sticking against Trevor Kidd|
|Bryan Marchment Cross checking against Konstantin Koltsov|
|Tie Domi Interference - Obstruction against Eric Meloche|
|Kelly Buchberger Fighting (maj) against Bryan Marchment|
|Bryan Marchment Fighting (maj) against Kelly Buchberger|
|Karel Pilar Holding against Ryan Malone|
|Wade Belak Roughing against Ryan Malone|