January 2, 2006
TORONTO (CP) -- Bryan McCabe and Chad Kilger spoiled Sidney Crosby's first NHL game in Canada.
McCabe had a Kyle Wellwood slap shot carom in off his chest 1:02 into overtime to give Toronto a 3-2 victory over Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, extending the Maple Leafs' winning streak to a season-high six games.
"It wasn't our prettiest game,'' McCabe said after getting credit for his 15th goal _ most by any NHL defenceman. "It's an ugly win, but we'll take it.''
Wellwood's shot would have gone wide of the net.
"It's my most fortunate assist (in the NHL) so far,'' said the Leafs rookie.
Pittsburgh goalie Jocelyn Thibault, getting his first start since Dec. 17, was the hero for two periods, and Kilger took centre stage in the third. His two goals within 2:49 erased a lead Pittsburgh had held since a Sergei Gonchar goal in the game's sixth minute.
"I was just shooting it as quick as I could and trying to get it on the net,'' said Kilger, who scored from the slot on passes from behind the net by Alex Steen and Mats Sundin.
Kilger had scored only four goals all season and hadn't found the mark in 14 games since Nov. 26, yet coach Pat Quinn kept using him on the first line with Sundin and Darcy Tucker, who left this one with a bruised rib in the first minute of the third period.
Quinn's patience paid off as Kilger's rare offensive outburst gave the Leafs a chance to win in front of a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,499.
"Chad has been playing really well with Mats,'' Quinn explained. "He's the kind of winger I like.
"He's responsible. He forces the play and he forechecks well. Historically, he hasn't produced a lot of points but he has terrific skills. (The two goals) is a bonus.''
Michel Ouellet tied it 2-2 with 4:39 left in regulation time when he converted a cross-ice Ziggy Palffy pass on a power play.
Toronto outshot Pittsburgh 39-22 in the game.
"We had a terrible start, really came out flat in the first period, but we kept grinding away,'' said McCabe. "Mats' line took control in the third period.''
Quinn moved Steen into Tucker's spot. The rookie was returning after missing seven games with a thumb injury.
"I got a chance to play with Mats and Chad and, fortunately, Chad put a couple home,'' said Steen. "The two quick goals, obviously, was a fortunate turn for us.
"Those were two great shots by Chad.''
Crosby set up the game's first goal with a dazzling pass. He was to the right of goalie Ed Belfour and about to skate past the net when he slid a pass behind his back and to the front of the crease to Palffy. Belfour stopped the shot, and Gonchar swept in the rebound. But it meant nothing when McCabe raised his arms to celebrate the winning goal.
"It was a tough break for us but I don't know if we deserved to win the game anyway,'' said Crosby. "We didn't play that well.''
Tucker will undergo tests Tuesday to determine if he'll be able to accompany his teammates on a western swing that starts with a game in Calgary on Friday.
"It's nice to get the win before starting on a long road trip,'' said McCabe.
Improved defensive play has enabled the Leafs to go on their winning streak.
"As long as we can keep doing that, we'll be successful,'' said Belfour, who was sharp. "I've been feeling stronger in the net.
"Conditioning is the key. The players are helping me see the puck by keeping the front of the crease cleared, and clearing rebounds.''
Notes: The Penguins are 2-2-3 since Michel Therien was named head coach following the firing of Ed Olczyk . . . Toronto was 0-for-7 and Pittsburgh 0-for-2 on power plays. Pittsburgh had relinquished at least one power-play goal in 13 of its previous 14 games . . . C Eric Lindros (wrist), C Jason Allison (finger), D Carlo Colaiacovo and RW Nik Antropov (knee) remained out . . . The Penguins were without C Mario Lemieux (irregular heartbeat), RW Ryan Vandenbussche (strained neck) and RW Eric Boguniecki (sprained knee), and they lost D Rob Scuderi in the second period when a Bryan McCabe slapshot struck him on the left wrist . . . Pittsburgh had nine rookies in its lineup . . . The Leafs play Friday in Calgary and Saturday in Edmonton.