LEAFS SURRENDER FIRST TWO GOALS OF GAME, BUT MATTHEWS' GOAL CUTS PENGUINS' LEAD IN HALF BEFORE FIRST INTERMISSION
The Leafs were playing the second game of back-to-back games - Friday's game against Detroit ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Red Wings - and they had a sizeable challenge Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in superstar centre Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. And the Pens showed their scoring potency halfway through the opening period when Crosby scored on the power play to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 10:01 mark.
Three minutes and 19 seconds later, the Penguins extended their lead when forward Teddy Blueger scored, but before the first period was through, centre Auston Matthews netted his 23rd goal of the year:
Video: PIT@TOR: Matthews buries rebound into open net
Matthews' goal was his third in as many games, and, given that it came with 2:35 left in the period, it halted Pittsburgh's momentum heading into the second frame.
DERMOTT, HYMAN STRIKE IN SECOND TO PUSH LEAFS AHEAD OF PENS
Toronto and Pittsburgh essentially were even on the shot counter in the first period - Toronto fired 13 shots at Pens goalie Matt Murray, while Pittsburgh got 12 shots on Leafs netminder Garret Sparks - and the teams traded chances equally in the middle period. However, it was the Leafs who scored the only two goals in the period: the first came when D-man Travis Dermott - who had the primary assist on Matthews' goal in the first - fired the puck from the blueline and it beat Murray to tie the game:
Video: PIT@TOR: Dermott buries one-timer from the point
Then, with 3:54 left in the second, the Leafs took their first lead of the evening when winger Zach Hyman gained position to the left of Murray and batted in a rebound for his ninth goal of the season:
Video: PIT@TOR: Hyman scores while falling down
Hyman's goal was the result of his typical hard work in front of the net, and the four-year NHL veteran moved to within six goals of tying his career high he set last season. Of more importance - it gave the Leafs their third consecutive goal of the game and put the Penguins on their heels as the final regulation period began.
SPARKS HOLDS OFF PENGUINS PUSH IN THIRD TO HELP LEAFS GET BACK ON WINNING TRACK
Neither the Leafs nor the Penguins scored in the third period, but Toronto found a way to keep the Pens off the scoresheet - namely, by playing in Pittsburgh's zone as much as possible and eventually firing 34 shots at Murray. Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Sparks turned aside all nine Pens shots in the third, and 28 of 30 on the night, to register his seventh win of the season and help improve Toronto's record to 31-17-3.
The Leafs' next challenge comes Monday, when the struggling Anaheim Ducks come to Toronto. The Ducks were drubbed 9-3 by Winnipeg Saturday, so they'll likely be out to prove themselves a better team than that - and the Leafs will need to be careful with them if they want to get a lengthy winning streak going.