(PITTSBURGH) -- The Maple Leafs continue to show resilience this season, managing to salvage a point against one of the NHL’s best teams, falling 4-3 in OT to Pittsburgh.
The Leafs trailed 2-0 after one period of play. Despite directing 14 shots on goal in the opening minutes, Pittsburgh took advantage just 26 seconds into the game, when forward Blake Comeau scored his first of three goals.
Evgeni Malkin would follow up with a power-play marker at 12:39 of the opening frame.
“We came out a little sloppy in the first, but we bounced back,” said Jonathan Bernier, who made 23 saves. “It’s not an easy building and it’s not an easy team and they have a lot of speed. I thought we played a pretty good game.”
The second period turned in the Leafs favour. Leo Komarov would break out for his first multi-goal game in the NHL, tying things up at two. The first of his two goals spawned from a nifty pass under pressure from Nazem Kadri, whould find Mike Santorelli and then Komarov for their first tally.
Comeau responded for Pittsburgh with his second goal of the game, shortly after Komarov’s tying goal to put Pittsburgh back on top at the 13:19 mark of period two.
Tyler Bozak would tie the game again just minutes later, fiding an opening while shorthanded to bury his second shorthanded goal in as many games.
“It’s something I’ve always done wherever I’ve played,” said Bozak. “I try to get chances when we are shorthanded and do stuff like that. It’s something I’ve been doing for a while.”
The shorthanded goal tied the game at three. It came against the best power-play in the league in Pittsburgh (33.3%), and Tyler Bozak became the first Leaf since Mats Sundin to score while a man down in back-to-back games since Mats Sundin did it on December 3rd and December 6th of 2002.
Pittsburgh applied a lot of pressure on Toronto in the third period.
Late in regulation, the Leafs found themselves down in a 3-on-4 shorthanded situation, With the Penguins applying pressure the Leafs managed to hold their ground and eventually force overtime. Despite losing in the extra frame, Nazem Kadri described as a moral victory.
“It’s a hard building to come in and win, that’s a great team, you have to give them all the credit in the world not easy to come back, at home it’s a different story,” explained Kadri. “We put our heads down and we were able to battle back but that’s the difference, especially with a team like this, one bounce, one shot, one goal, that’s what makes the difference.”
Blake Comeau would complete the hat trick by scoring the game winner for the Penguins.
The Leafs are now 4-2-1 against teams in the Metropolitain division. The 0-2-1 portion were against Pittsburgh. That was the last game between these teams for the rest of the season.
Two of those three were closely contested games against arguably the top team in the NHL.
Korbinian Holzer logged 17:50 in ice-time during his season debut against Pittsburgh. Despite
being a right-handed shot, Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle had him paired up with another righty in Stephane Robidas, while Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly (lefties) were slotted in the 3-4 defensive spots.
“I thought he played a heck of a hockey game tonight for us” said Carlyle of Holzer’s game. “He was a difference, you noticed him, he broke up a two-on-one before we scored out second goal, he had a positive night.”
Carlyle elected to go with other defencemen to go up against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, deeming it unfair to give Holzer a tough task for his first game back.
His two goals moved him up to fourth in points on the team with 16 (five goals 11 assists). His four goals this season have already matched his season high from his debut in the NHL two seasons ago. It was the first time the Maple Leafs lost a game when Komarov scores a goal. Toronto are 6-0-1 in that department.
Joffrey Lupul and David Booth
Joffrey Lupul and David Booth made their return and debut respectively. Lupul played just under 12 minutes while Booth played just under 10. The differential in time came by way of power-play time given to Lupul.