In his fourth game of the season, Sidney Crosby allowed hockey fans in Pittsburgh to breathe a sigh of relief, as he ended his “slump” and scored his first goal of the 2007-08 campaign.
Not that they had much of a reason to worry in the first place.
But just to assure everyone that he’s ready to roll, No. 87 scored a second goal and Maxime Talbot added a pair as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied for a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in front of 19,479 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Looks like it’s time for the rest of the National Hockey League to be on alert.
Crosby’s second goal of the night – which came on the power play with 5:22 remaining in regulation – broke a 4-4 tie as the Penguins (2-2-0) overcame a 3-1 deficit by bombarding Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala with 52 shots.
“It's not something I was too worried about,” Crosby said of his slow start. “If I wasn't getting chances, I'd be a little worried. But I thought it was just a matter of time.”
The Penguins suffered a huge scare early in the game when starting netminder Dany Sabourin was driven into his goal post following a collision with Toronto’s Darcy Tucker, who was shoved into him by Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik.
Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Sabourin and stopped 19 of 21 shots. He came into the game trailing 2-1 as Tucker and Nik Antropov scored 2:02 apart after Eric Christiansen had given the Penguins a 1-0 lead 5:09 into the game.
The Leafs appeared to be in good shape when Mats Sundin gave them a 3-1 lead just 55 seconds into the second period. But Crosby ended his mini-slump 6:31 into the period when his cross-ice pass for Petr Sykora deflected off the skate of Toronto’s Pavel Kubina and past Toskala to make it 3-2. Maxime Talbot tied the game 19 seconds later with the first of his two goals, as Toskala was left helpless by his defense.
“It's tough,” Toskala said. “We need the points if we want to make the playoffs this year, so it's frustrating.”
Paul Maurice was pleased with Toskala’s play. The Leafs’ coach has yet to settle on a No. 1 goaltender, as Andrew Raycroft has posted a 2.44 goals-against and a .918 save percentage in two appearances, going 1-0-1.
“He's played really, really well his last two games,” Maurice said of Toskala, who was strafed in a 7-1 home loss to Carolina on Tuesday. “What do you say to the kid after that? He played great again.”
Talbot tied the game when he parked himself in front of the net and swept a rebound past Toskala.
“We were moving our feet and really creating a lot,” said Crosby. “And we could have even had more, let's be honest. We have to make sure defensively we're strong but if we keep putting shots up like that, I think we'll get results.”
Ryan Malone gave Pittsburgh a short-lived 4-3 lead with his second goal of the season at the 16-minute mark of the second period, converting another rebound. But Jason Blake made it 4-4 with his first goal as a Maple Leaf just 27 seconds later. The speedy winger – who announced earlier in the week that he’s battling a form of leukemia – flipped Sundin’s rebound over Fleury’s glove to make it 4-4. Blake received a nice reception from the huge crowd following the tally.
Moments later, Crosby nearly wound up in his first fight, when he got into a bit of a scrum with Antropov. Both players received roughing penalties, but Crosby said it was far from what could be labeled as a fight.
“I went to finish my hit and he got his stick up a bit,” the Penguins’ captain said. “A little bit of a scrum. Nothing major. That's not a fight. I didn't drop the gloves.”
Instead, he got his first game-winner of the season by tapping in a loose puck after Toskala stopped Darryl Sydor’s shot from the point but saw in squirt behind him. Talbot hit the empty net with 50 seconds remaining.
Crosby said he wasn’t worried about his goal “drought.”
“I remember last year I went eight to 10 games without a goal, so I was hoping it wasn't going to be that long,” he said. “But that happens … that's part of playing hockey. I've said it before, it's not easy. The seasons are full of ups and downs. You just have to battle through it.”
The Penguins entered Saturday night’s game with just eight goals in their first three games – very uncharacteristic for a team that possesses as much firepower as the Pens do.
“Any time you go on the road and get more than 50 shots, you're doing something right,” Penguins forward Mark Recchi said. “Hopefully this game gets us going in the right direction.”
Material from wire services was used in this report.