Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview
GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (10-19-8) at Toronto Maple Leafs (22-14-3).
TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
Motivated by an embarrassing loss, the Toronto Maple Leafs have responded by playing some of its best hockey of the season.
Toronto looks to extend its winning streak to six games when they welcome rookie star Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto has won six of its last seven against Pittsburgh including a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday at Mellon Arena. The Maple Leafs also are looking for their longest winning streak since an eight-game run from Nov. 22-Dec. 6, 2003.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is looking for its first three-game winning streak of the season.
The Maple Leafs won their fifth in a row Saturday with 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. Mariusz Czerkawski and Darcy Tucker scored 21 seconds apart in the second period, and Jeff O'Neill and Tomas Kaberle also scored in the period.
"We just did simple things," Kaberle said. "They weren't huge plays. We made one or two passes and it was in the net."
The Maple Leafs have won five of six since an 8-2 loss to Ottawa on Dec. 17. Toronto, which has two four-game winning streaks this season, has allowed an average of just 3.3 goals per game since the loss.
"You have that kind of thing to discuss among the group," coach Pat Quinn said. "We said it wasn't very pretty and we have to do some things better. We have been getting better and maybe that had quite a bit to do with catching everybody's attention."
The Penguins are coming off their second straight win, a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday over the New York Rangers. Pittsburgh's only other back-to-back wins this season came on Nov. 1-3 against New Jersey and the New York Islanders.
Crosby scored with 1 1/2 minutes left in overtime and assisted on Pittsburgh's first goal of the game. The rookie phenom has five goals and four assists in four games since being left off the Canadian Olympic team.
The Penguins lost their first four games under new coach Michel Therrien by one-goal each but have won the last two after losing 27 of their first 35.
"We're playing solid hockey and not making too many very big mistakes," Crosby said. "We're not giving up a lot of opportunities, and we have to continue to play like that."
Tomas Surovy scored twice for the second consecutive game, and Michel Ouellet added a second-period goal.
Ouellet has four goals in six games since being promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League along with Therrien following Eddie Olczyk's firing on Dec. 15.
"We deserved to win," Therrien said. "We stuck to the plan and we allowed only 17 shots, and I'm happy about the way we are playing."
STANDINGS: Penguins - 28 points, 5th place, 26 PB, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 47 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Crosby, 19 goals and 42 points; Zigmund Palffy, 24 assists; Brooks Orpik, 61 PIM. Maple Leafs - Tucker, 17 goals; Bryan McCabe, 32 assists, 46 points and 54 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Penguins - Power play: 16.5 percent (39 for 237), 18th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (200 for 254), 29th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 21.1 percent (53 for 251), 4th. Penalty killing: 81 percent (204 for 252), 20th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (4-7-3, 0 SO, 3.09 GAA); Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-2, 0, 4.41). Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (17-11-2, 0, 3.26); Mikael Tellqvist (5-3-1, 1, 2.48).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 27; Maple Leafs, 3-2, OT. At Pittsburgh, Kaberle scored 2:26 into overtime, and Mats Sundin had a goal and two assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 4-10-3 on the road; Maple Leafs - 14-7-1 at home.