PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs may have reclaimed their position as one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Curtis Joseph returned after missing 21 games and Darcy Tucker had a goal and two assists to lead the Maple Leafs to a 5-2 triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Joseph made 27 saves in his first game since suffering a broken left hand on February 26. Toronto was 9-7-5-0 in his absence.
"Joseph was very sharp today," defenceman Jamie Pushor said. "He is the key to Toronto's playoff run."
Tucker opened the scoring at 6:52 of the first period with his 23rd goal. Travis Green redirected a pass from defenceman Bryan McCabe to Tucker at center ice, sending him in on a partial breakaway. Tucker unleashed a slap shot from just outside the left faceoff circle that beat goaltender Johan Hedberg to the short side for a 1-0 lead.
"Getting the lead early relieves a lot of pressure," Joseph said. "I'm always happy with a lead and I was able to be more comfortable. I was impressed with the way the team played today. We passed well, we came out together and moved the puck and played a good game."
Tucker has five goals and six assists in his last six games.
"I feel good right now, which makes things easier," Tucker said. "I think the suspension helped me, being able to rest and hit the gym. I think I've always been a headsy player, a guy that likes to move the puck, and I'm skating better this year, which makes for more time to make plays. I have five goals more than last year."
Green added a power-play tally 7:43 into the second to give the Maple Leafs a commanding 4-0 lead. Tucker passed out of the right corner to Green, who wristed a shot from low in the left circle over a diving Hedberg for his 11th goal.
Tie Domi, rookie Alexei Ponikarovsky and Alexander Mogilny also scored for Toronto, which trails Boston by one point for the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference lead. Both teams have one game remaining.
"Taking nothing for granted, if the next game means something, then we'll go with Cujo," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "We at least have home-ice, which is terrific. Hopefully, we'll make something out of it. It's a big advantage being at home."
Joseph was not so sure playing Saturday against Ottawa is a good idea.
"I think it would be a good move to rest tomorrow," he said. "I got a game in today, I don't want to push it."
Dan Lacouture and Alexei Kovalev scored for the Penguins, who had their winless streak extended to nine games (0-7-1-1).
Kovalev suffered a hip flexor injury after tallying late in the second period and did not play in the third.
"I can't even move," Kovalev said. "I can only skate a little bit."
Toronto captain Mats Sundin was kept off the scoresheet, ending an eight-game points streak.
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