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Penguins try for two-game sweep of Leafs

by Sergei J. Feldman /
PENGUINS (29-17-4) at MAPLE LEAFS (25-19-6)


LAST 10: Pittsburgh 8-2-0; Toronto 5-4-1

Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, with each team winning at home. In the first game of the current home-and-home series, Pittsburgh erased a three-goal, third-period lead to win 5-4 in a shootout on Tuesday night. NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin tied the game with 6.6 seconds left when James Neal's past deflected off him and into the net, then scored the only goal of the tiebreaker for the win.

Big Story: With a point Tuesday night, the Leafs moved into to the eighth and final playoff place by a point over Florida. But the Leafs left a point on the ice at the Consol Energy Center when the Penguins roared back from a 4-1 deficit to earn their eighth win in a row -- four of them in shootouts.

Team Scope:

Penguins: A few hours after Sidney Crosby disclosed encouraging details about his neck injury, Malkin proved once again he is a capable stand-in as Pittsburgh's savior. In a game in which Toronto dominated large stretches, Malkin was held pointless for 59:53. Then, as if he was just waiting for the right instant to drive a stake through the Leafs' heart, Malkin deflected Neal's shot past Jonas Gustavsson for the game-tying goal -- then won the game in the shootout.

Not that the Penguins were ready for self-congratulation after stealing two points for winning a game in which they were generally outplayed.

"Things are going well for us right now," forward Craig Adams said. "We're getting a lot of good bounces, and we're feeling good about ourselves in terms of never being out of a game. But I don't think we want to play too many games like that."

Maple Leafs: As is natural for any team that just conceded three goals in the final period and lost in a shootout, Toronto was disappointed with Tuesday's outcome. But captain Dion Phaneuf was quick to point out that the Leafs dominated for much of the evening, using a lightning-fast attack to pin Pittsburgh deep.

"We took the game to them for the first 55 (minutes) and we sat back, tightened up a little bit and they took over the game and they just kept coming and they broke us," Phaneuf said.

Coach Ron Wilson was also pleased with his team's effort in a game he said hinged on "lucky" bounces.

"I thought we played an excellent game, and that last goal was kind of lucky where hit him high in the shoulder," Wilson said. "We got sloppy toward the end."

Who's Hot: Malkin has five goals and seven points in Pittsburgh's last five games. … With all the hype in Toronto swirling around the one-two All-Star punch of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski is quietly stocking the stat line. The center has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last three games, including a pair of goals and an assist on Tuesday night.

Injury Report: For Pittsburgh, Arron Asham (concussion), Simon Despres (lower body), Jordan Staal (sprained left MCL), Robert Bortuzzo (concussion-like symptoms) and Crosby (concussion-like symptoms) are all on injured reserve. … Toronto's John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong have yet to return from respective concussions. Darryl Boyce (back) is day-to-day.

Stat Pack: Marc-Andre Fleury played in his career-high 23rd straight game Tuesday, and it will be tough for coach Dan Bylsma to forego his hot hand in favor of backup Brent Johnson. But Fleury has been far from perfect in his current eight-game winning streak, conceding three or more goals four times over that stretch. He also carries a lifetime 3.11 goals-against average against Toronto, opening the possibility for his streak to end at the Air Canada Center.

Puck Drop: "You've got to win a lot of different ways. I'm not sure we deserved the fate we got tonight." -Bylsma in a frank reaction to his team's comeback win.

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