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Rookie leads Leafs past Penguins

by John Kreiser
Jiri Tlusty scored twice in 35 seconds early in the third period to lead the Leafs to a 5-2 victory.
Toronto rookie Jiri Tlusty needed just 35 seconds to upstage Sidney Crosby.

Tlusty was the third player called up to the struggling Maple Leafs from the minors this week, and was so excited when he got the call from GM John Ferguson Jr. at 1:30 on Wednesday morning that he couldn’t get back to sleep. He was still revved up before his NHL debut.

“I was nervous before the game, but after the first period my nerves calmed down,” Tlusty said. “After the second period, I felt real good.”

Good enough to score twice in 35 seconds early in the third period to lead the Leafs to a 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

"The NHL was my dream. Now I've played in my first game, and in my first game I scored my first two goals," said Tlusty, a 19-year-old Czech native who was the No. 13 overall pick in 2006. "It's great."

Crosby got his third goal of the season – all against Toronto – when he jammed in a loose puck 16:30 into the game. After Alex Steen tied the score with the only goal of the second period, Tlusty and the Leafs took over in the third.

Tlusty tipped Steen’s shot past Marc-Andre Fleury 1:45 into the third period to put Toronto ahead, then ripped a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot into the net at 2:20.

“I closed my eyes and took the shot and said, ‘We’ll see,’ and it went in,” Tlusty said of his second goal, which he thought was his first – the tip-in goal originally was credited to Steen.

Toronto, which had allowed a league-worst 42 goals in 10 games, added goals by Tomas Kaberle and Boyd Devereaux 23 seconds apart midway through the period before Sergei Gonchar got a late power-play goal for the Penguins.

“Jiri had a great game for us,” Steen said. “He used his speed, got to the puck quickly and as soon as we got open it felt like he would find us. He played a great hockey game defensively as well. He'll be flying after this.”

The tension that had surrounded the Leafs earlier in the week when they finished a season-opening stretch in which they played eight of 10 games at home disappeared at the Mellon Arena, even though the Leafs had been 0-4-1 in their last five meetings with the Penguins.

“We had some fun. They were talking to each other and there was no tension,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. “I was happy for them. They’ve been tight for a while and that was a great breakthrough.”

The Penguins’ third-period collapse after winning three straight one-goal games left coach Michel Therrien perturbed.

“We lost because we didn’t execute,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes with the puck, and we didn’t compete. When the game was on the line, we didn’t do the job.”

The loss was only the second for Pittsburgh in their last six games.

“Every mistake we made wound up in our net,” Crosby said.

Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.

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