A much better effort for the Leafs, when you compare it to their first meeting against the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
Back in early October, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for six points. The Leafs couldn’t match Pittsburgh’s offence. On this night, the Pens dynamic duo were limited to one assist.
Ultimately, it came down to a bit of a slow start and perhaps, showing the Penguins a bit too much respect.
“We weren’t skating in the early going, the first 10 or 12 minutes we were in awe of Pittsburgh,” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “We were watching what they were doing and it showed on the shot clock. We were dramatically being outshot because we were standing around watching.”
Despite the play, the Leafs found themselves with a chance to force a result of at least one point.
Down 2-1 late in the third period, Malkin took an extra roughing call when responding to a clean hit delivered by Dion Phaneuf on Pittsburgh forward Patric Hornqvist.
Carlyle elected to pull the Jonathan Bernier to create a six-on-four situation for the final 2:14.The Leafs carried possession and generated numerous chances. A well-placed stick save from Penguins goaltender Thomas Greiss was what stood in the way of forcing overtime.
The Maple Leafs power-play ended up with an off night, unable to capitalize on six different chances.
“We were handling the puck way way too long,” said Carlyle of the special teams situation. “They (Pittsburgh) did a good job of forcing things to the outside and blocking shots. But we didn’t do a good job of handling the puck and when we moved the puck, we were overhanding it and moved too slow.”
Prior to this night, the Maple Leafs scored five or more goals in three consecutive games.
The last time the Leafs were afforded at least six power-play chances and didn’t score a single goal was back on December 29th, 2011. The Leafs fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime and went 0-for-7 with the man-advantage.
Carlyle refused to be critical, giving credit to Pittsburgh fourth ranked penalty-kill.
“I just think tonight was more of an aberration than what has been happening with our group. Our group has been pretty good with the power-play, we’ve worked very hard on it and they’ve done a good job with it.”
In the end, the Leafs didn’t establish their even strength play until they were down two goals in the third period. It’s a quick game to erase as they get set for Buffalo on Saturday.
Kadri drought, but rewarded for play.
Make it six straight games where Nazem Kadri hasn’t scored. With the Leafs struggling to generate chances thgrough the first 40 minutes, Kadri was moved up to play with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel in an attempt to get the offence going.
“I thought it was one of Nazi’s better games in the last little while tonight” Carlyle said. “I thought he was involved physically.”
At one point Kadri thought he had a goal in the opening frame while on the power-play.
“I thought I hit the back bar,” said Kadri, “Next thing I know, Clarky is battling for it in the crease.”
Still, Kadri is earning the trust of Carlyle, not something that had been evident in past years.
“It’s a little frustrating but that’s really all I can control,” Kadri said of his bad luck as of late. “Puck luck’s just not there right now but I eventually it’ll come.”