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Shorthanded Penguins topple Toronto

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Penguins needed players to accept the responsibility of putting up points, so Jan Hrdina and Robert Lang filled the void.

Hrdina and Lang each collected a goal and an assist to help the injury-riddled Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Penguins have played all season without the help of Alexei Kovalev due to a knee injury and recently lost the services of Mario Lemieux, who underwent hip surgery, and Martin Straka, who suffered a broken leg in a 2-2 tie with Florida on Sunday.

"It's different without Mario and guys -- a lot of pressure, more pressure on me to score," Lang said. "I hope every night will be like tonight. Of course, it won't. It will be ugly, a war out there. We have to win some games. There is no real answer to our situation."

Hrdina scored the go-ahead goal with 2:19 remaining in the second period. Lang stopped a clearing attempt at the right point and shoveled it to Hrdina in the high slot. Unchallenged by the defense, he beat goaltender Curtis Joseph with a slap shot just inside the left post.

Lang gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead just over two minutes into the final period. He picked up his own rebound at the top of the crease, maneuvered to his backhand to avoid incoming defenseman Aki Berg and lifted the puck over Joseph.

"After the first period, we were over worked the rest of the night," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "We did all the things that losers do, and we lost the game, deservedly. I am not so sure that Pittsburgh got stronger. We got weaker. I do know that they worked hard all night long. Tonight they got the result that they should have."

Penguins goalie Johan Hedberg made 26 saves to improve to 5-5-0.

But it was defenseman Andrew Ference that made a diving play with three minutes remaining to preserve Pittsburgh's two-goal lead. Toronto's Darcy Tucker drew Hedberg out of the net at the start of his wraparound, but as he came around to the left side of the net, Ference dove to block the easy shot.

"I thought we had a few breakdowns in the third," Penguins coach Rick Kehoe said. "They were taking it to us and working behind our net. The guys battled. We have to give Toronto a lot of credit."

The Penguins took on a defensive stance the final 10 minutes and did not record a shot on goal in that span.

"We see the other team score a couple of goals and we lose our composure the rest of the game," Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said. "Our strength in the past has been to come back. We weren't concerned with who Pittsburgh didn't have. They were a playoff team last year, they still have good players."

Toronto took a 1-0 lead at 13:10 of the first period on a slap shot by Dmitry Yushkevich. Stephane Richer tied it on a slapper from the right boards midway through the second period.

"We were happy with the whole team, the way they battled back, being down 1-0, we could have easily folded the tent," Kehoe said. "We ended up getting a few goals tonight that we weren't getting."

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