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Leafs drop second straight to start season

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO - Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists, all on the power play, for his second straight three-point game as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 Saturday night.

Fantasy team owners who took the Penguins superstar will be encouraged to know Crosby is on pace for a 246-point season. While that's not going to happen, Crosby will continue to profit if Pittsburgh's power play is allowed to take the ice as it did before a subdued Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,039.

Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter also scored for Pittsburgh (2-0-0), which got a solid showing in goal from Marc-Andre Fleury. Malkin also had a three-point night, with a pair of assists.

Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak replied for Toronto (0-2-0), which might have had it worse if not for goalie Jonathan Bernier.

A fan tossed a Leafs jersey onto the ice with some eight minutes remaining in the game, as if throwing in the towel.

Toronto lost its home opener 4-3 to Montreal on a late goal Wednesday.

Pittsburgh, which led 3-0 after the first period, outshot Toronto 41-25.

The line of Crosby, Hornqvist and Kunitz finished with six points and the Penguins went three-for-five on the power play. The Leafs were two-for-five with the man advantage.

Crosby picked up two goals and an assist in the Pens' season-opening win over Anaheim.

The reigning NHL scoring champion came into Saturday's game having collected 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) in 13 career visits to the Air Canada Centre and 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 28 career games against the Leafs.

Leafs sniper Phil Kessel's sluggish start continued with three trips to the penalty box, although one was a bench minor for too many men on the ice, and not much else.

For the second game in a row, Toronto's first line was not its best. The second line of Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik had the most jump.

Leafs coach Randy Caryle shuffled the deck in the third period, having Kessel skate with Kadri and Lupul while David Clarkson was with the erstwhile first line of James van Riemsdyk and Bozak.

Van Riemsdyk and Simon Despres had a brief fight with 33 seconds remaining.

There was a fast-paced opening to the game with four minutes and nine seconds without a whistle from the opening puck drop.

Hornqvist opened the scoring at 6:44 on Pittsburgh's second shot, pouncing on a wide Christian Ehrhoff shot from the point that bounced back off the end boards. The former Predators winger got to it before a Leaf and fired a shot through Bernier's legs.

There was more of the same at 7:44, 14 seconds into a Kessel hooking penalty. An angled Kris Letang shot from the point flew just wide of the left post and bounced off the boards behind the goal back out past the right post where a cruising Crosby beat Stephane Robidas to the puck and slapped it in for his third in two games.

Kunitz, camped in front of goal with two Leafs in the box, made it 3-0 at 17:46 when he redirected a delicate Crosby feed from near the side boards.

A David Clarkson tip-in goal was negated upon review early in the second period for a high stick. Lupul finally beat Fleury on the power play at 4:18, tapping his stick on the ice in front of goal to attract the pass from Morgan Rielly and make it 3-1.

The goal was followed by a horrendous run of play by the Leafs, penned in their own end after a string of giveaways.

Toronto hit the post twice on a power play midway through the period. Then it was the Penguins' turn with the man-advantage, peppering Bernier with shots while Kessel watched from the box again.

Malkin made it 4-1 at 13:46, snapping a wrist shot high past a screened Bernier with Kessel back in the box for the bench minor. Sutter added to the Leafs pain, banging in a rebound at 8:26 of the third, before Bozak scored on the power play at 10:51 to cut the deficit to 5-2.

Slovak winger Richard Panik made his Leafs debut after being picked up on waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Panik played on a line with Peter Holland, with whom he played junior hockey in Guelph, and Brandon Kozun.

Defenceman Cody Franson, who missed the opener with a knee bruise, took warmup but did not play.

NOTES: Saturday's contest marked the first of 18 sets of back-to-back games for the Leafs. They play Sunday in New York against the Rangers. Toronto was 13-18-1 in back-to-back games last season ... Pittsburgh defenceman Scott Harrington, a 21-year-old from Kingston, Ont., did not play after being recalled Friday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.

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