TORONTO (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins got the break they needed.
Sergei Gonchar scored two goals during a strange 3-minute sequence that also saw a Maple Leafs penalty shot wiped out as the Penguins beat Toronto 4-1 on Saturday night. It was just the second victory in eight games for the Stanley Cup champions.
"That was kind of a game-changer for sure with the way things happened," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We certainly built off that and from there on in, I thought we carried the play."
The key sequence happened just past the midway point of a 1-1 game. With the Penguins on a power play, Gonchar scored a goal that went undetected and then tripped Alexei Ponikarovsky on a breakaway roughly 15 seconds later - causing the referee to signal for a penalty shot.
However, video review showed that Gonchar had scored prior to hauling down the Toronto forward so the time clock was turned back to 14:44 and the penalty shot became a hooking penalty because two goals can't be scored at the same time.
"That was weird," Crosby said.
Added Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury: "I was a little confused when all that happened."
Even though the Leafs were made aware that the sequence was called correctly under the NHL's casebook, coach Ron Wilson believes the ruling is based on "flawed logic."
"I understand you can't have two goals on one play, but why not?" Wilson said. "Why can't you?"
As if that wasn't strange enough, Gonchar scored his second goal of the night shortly after stepping out of the penalty box to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead.
The veteran defenseman was playing his first game since taking a puck off the knee in New Jersey on Dec. 30. He made an immediate impact.
"It was a pretty big effort back there from our blue line and Gonch is a big part of that," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's nice to have that confident guy back there, a leader back there."
Crosby and Bill Guerin also scored for Pittsburgh, which kicked off a five-game road trip that will see it travel through Western Canada. Fleury stopped 42 shots.
Matt Stajan replied for the Maple Leafs.
Toronto is mired in a slump of its own, having gone 3-8-2 in its last 13 games. It's averaging just two goals a game during a stretch that has coincided with a drought for Phil Kessel, who has scored just once in his last 12.
Wilson ripped into his team earlier this week, but had no complaints after this one.
"It was our fourth game in five nights, and they came in rested," he said. "There was nothing wrong with our effort, I was happy with our energy level. The players emptied the tank, they gave it all they had on the ice."
Kessel had a couple quality opportunities on Saturday, but couldn't solve Fleury. No play better highlighted the Leafs' scoring woes than when Rickard Wallin - still looking for his first goal of the season - missed a completely empty net in the last minute of the second period.
Crosby certainly didn't miss early in the third when he scored his 27th of the season with a highlight-reel move. He beat Tomas Kaberle 1-on-1 before tipping the puck through Jonas Gustavsson's legs with one hand on his stick at 3:49.
"I just tried to get my stick on it," Crosby said. "It was kind of a broken play."
The Penguins captain also made a nice play on the team's opening goal. He spun out of the corner and delivered a perfect backhand pass that went in off Guerin's skate at 7:24 of the first period.
NOTES: Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek missed his third straight game because of an upper-body injury. ... Pittsburgh defesceman Brooks Orpik left midway through the game with an undisclosed injury. ... Crosby has 12 goals and 30 points in 19 career games against the Maple Leafs.
|Bill Guerin (14) ASST: Sidney Crosby (26), Mark Eaton (5)|
1 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Matt Stajan (13) ASST: Phil Kessel (9), Tomas Kaberle (35)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Sergei Gonchar (6) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (29), Bill Guerin (17)|
2 - 1 PIT
|Sergei Gonchar (7) ASST: Evgeni Malkin (30), Alex Goligoski (15)|
3 - 1 PIT
|Sidney Crosby (27) ASST: Pascal Dupuis (7), Sergei Gonchar (19)|
4 - 1 PIT
|Garnet Exelby Clipping against Craig Adams|
|Kris Letang Slashing against John Mitchell|
|Francois Beauchemin Hooking against Ruslan Fedotenko|
|Jeff Finger Holding the stick against Matt Cooke|
|Sergei Gonchar Hooking against Alexei Ponikarovsky|
|Ruslan Fedotenko Boarding against Ian White|
|Maxime Talbot Tripping against Niklas Hagman|