TORONTO - Pity the Toronto Maple Leafs. They had the unfortunate fate of welcoming a goal-hungry Sidney Crosby after the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar began the season with no goals in his first three games.
The so-called slump is over, folks.
Sid The Kid scored his first two goals of the season, including the game-winner with 5:22 left in the third period, to lead the Penguins to a wild 6-4 win over the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
"It's not something I was too worried about," said Crosby, the game's first star. "If I wasn't getting chances I'd be a little worried but I thought it was just a matter of time."
Last season's NHL scoring champion came into the game with two assists and nine shots on goal in three games. He scored on two of his four shots Saturday - neither one a beauty but he wasn't complaining.
"I remember last year I went eight to 10 games without a goal, so I was hoping it wasn't going to be that long," said Crosby. "But that happens, that's part of playing hockey. I've said it before, it's not easy. The seasons are full of ups and downs. You just have to battle through it."
The crowd of 19,479 at Air Canada Centre got its money's worth in a game which featured plenty of goals, even more chances, and very little defence. Both teams handled the puck in their own zone like a hand grenade. But the Penguins especially terrorized the Leafs with 52 shots on goal and chance after chance.
"We were moving our feet and really creating a lot," said Crosby. "And we could have even had more, let's be honest. We have to make sure defensively we're strong but if we keep putting shots up like that, I think we'll get results."
It was the ninth goal in the game that mattered most, Crosby banging home a loose puck into an empty net after Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala stopped Darryl Sydor's point shot on a Penguins power play only to have the puck trickle behind him to Crosby. It was the lone power-play tally of the night out of 10 goals.
Maxime Talbot also had a pair of goals, while Ryan Malone and Erik Christensen also scored for the Penguins (2-2-0), who outshot Toronto 52-27.
"Any time you go on the road and get more than 50 shots you're doing something right," said veteran Penguins winger Mark Recchi. "Hopefully this game gets us going in the right direction."
Toskala was solid despite letting in five goals, stopping 46 shots - one short of his career-high. If only he had help. The Leafs are going to have a long season if they don't start to tighten up in their own end.
"I feel sorry for Vesa, he's kicking 50 shots aside," said Leafs winger Alex Steen. "We're taking too many penaltiesaand they took advantage at the end."
Toskala has given up 12 goals in his last two starts but head coach Paul Maurice can't fault him.
"He's played really, really well his last two games," said Maurice. "What do you say to the kid after that? He played great again."
Said Toskala: "It's tough. We need the points if we want to make the playoffs this year so it's frustrating."
The Leafs were handed a power play with 1:32 to go in the third period but couldn't capitalize, Talbot ending it with an empty-netter with 49.2 clicks left.
Toronto for the second game in a row faced the opposition's backup goalie. After putting eight goals past New York Islanders backup Wade Dubielewicz on Thursday, the Leafs saw Penguins backup Dany Sabourin get the start over No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury.
And he looked every bit the backup after allowing a pair of shaky goals. But Sabourin was replaced by Fleury with 4:53 to go in the opening period after Darcy Tucker was pushed into him by Pens defenceman Brooks Orpik, the goalie knocking his head on the ice.
Orpik was knocked out of the game in the second period, injured while trying to hit Simon Gamache. The Leafs winger appeared to catch him with his stick as the Pens defenceman tried to bodycheck him. A team spokesman said Orpik sustained a mild concussion.
Crosby has never had a fighting major in the NHL but came close late in the second period, exchanging a few face washes with Nik Antropov. Both players got roughing penalties.
"I went to finish my hit and he got his stick up a bit," said Crosby. "A little bit of a scrum. Nothing major. That's not a fight. I didn't drop the gloves."
Christensen opened the scoring 5:09 into the game, his wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle beating a screened Toskala. Tucker tied it 1:28 later, flipping in a rebound at the side of the net. Toronto took its first lead at 8:39, Antropov stuffing home a loose puck.
The Pens pressed for the rest of the period, outshooting the Leafs 19-6 overall, but Toskala stood up to the test - including a flashy glove save on Jordan Staal.
The Leafs came out with more energy in the middle period and connected early to make it 3-1, Mats Sundin one-timing a quick pass from behind by Antropov past Fleury just 55 seconds in.
Crosby rallied his team, however, his attempted pass deflecting off Leafs defenceman Pavel Kubina and past Toskala at 6:31. That seemed to wake up the Pens, who tied it 3-3 just 19 seconds later, Talbot putting in a rebound after a second effort.
The teams traded chances before Pittsburgh went ahead with exactly four minutes to go in the second period, Malone knocking a rebound off Staal's shot to make it 4-3.
Jason Blake tied it 4-4 just 27 seconds later, flipping a rebound from Sundin's shot over Fleury. The Air Canada Centre crowd showed its appreciation with a warm applause for Blake, scoring his first goal as a Leaf in an emotionally charged week. He was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and announced it last Monday.
Notes: Forward Kyle Wellwood (groin) and defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) joined their Maple Leaf teammates for the pre-game skate Saturday morning, their first practice with the team since going down with separate problems. Both players said they hoped to be back in the lineup soon, perhaps as early as next week. Winger Alex Ponikarovsky (knee) missed his second straight game. "We're hopeful for Monday (at Buffalo)," Maurice said of Ponikarovsky. "We don't think he's that far off." ... Toronto native Mike Myers, in town shooting his latest film - The Love Guru - dropped the puck for a ceremonial faceoff.