The Penguins did everything right in their game against Toronto on Wednesday, battling hard and putting forth a strong defensive effort. And while they eventually fell to the Maple Leafs by a score of 3-2 in overtime, their overall solid performance allowed them to leave the Air Canada Centre with a crucial point in the standings.
The Penguins buckled down defensively after conceding five goals to the Maple Leafs in the two teams’ last meeting on Feb. 26. Pittsburgh allowed Toronto a mere 10 shots through the first 40 minutes of regulation and just 20 on the night while killing off all five Maple Leafs power-play opportunities, including a crucial one with 3:18 left in regulation and the score tied 2-2.
Not only did Pittsburgh’s blueliners match up well against Toronto’s top players, but the Penguins forwards played an outstanding two-way game. They won the puck battles, played physical, capitalized on turnovers and generally outhustled the Maple Leafs.
It just wasn’t enough to withstand a desperate Toronto squad that turned it on over the last 10 minutes of the game to rally for the overtime win. Pittsburgh now holds a three-point lead over fifth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference standings.
After the newly acquired Alex Kovalev chipped in a regulation goal and the game-deciding tally in Pittsburgh’s 6-5 shootout win over Toronto on Feb. 26, it was new Penguin Matt Niskanen who stepped up on Wednesday in just his fourth game with the team.
The defenseman scored the opening goal and added an assist to help the Penguins earn a point in the standings in their 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto.
On his goal, Niskanen received a feed from partner Ben Lovejoy after the Penguins won the offensive zone faceoff. Niskanen quickly one-timed a blast past Toronto goalie James Reimer to put Pittsburgh up 1-0 with 13:08 remaining in the opening frame.
He then made an absolutely beautiful stretch pass from behind the Penguins blue line to Chris Conner on Toronto’s blue line to send the Penguins forward on a breakaway. Conner backhanded the puck under Reimer to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
Niskanen finished with 19:50 of ice time and threw a game-high six hits, the most checks by a player on either team.
The Penguins started the third period off strong. Not only did they hold a 2-1 lead, but they continued to build momentum when the line of Maxime Talbot, Dustin Jeffrey and Pascal Dupuis had a phenomenal shift in the Maple Leafs defensive zone a few minutes into the period. They kept Toronto hemmed in their own end for a long period of time with their relentless play and great puck management.
But once the Maple Leafs finally cleared the puck and barreled into the Penguins’ zone, Kris Letang’s clearing attempt took a funny bounce off the glass and allowed Toronto to hold the blue line. Carl Gunnarsson’s shot then deflected off Phil Kessel and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at 2-2 with 14:53 left in the period, opening the door for Toronto to win the game in overtime.
TORONTO (AP) - Mikhail Grabovski scored 42 seconds into overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Grabovski took a nice pass from Phil Kessel, who tied it in the third period, and stuffed a shot behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Maple Leafs improved to 3-24-3 where they trail after two periods. More importantly, they moved within four points of eighth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference. It was far from the best effort from a tired-looking Toronto team that still managed to improve to 9-2-4 since the All-Star break.
Nikolai Kulemin also scored for the Maple Leafs. Matt Niskanen and Chris Conner scored for Pittsburgh.
- The Penguins have now gone to overtime in five of their past seven games and seven of their past 15 contests. They have won four of the seven, with two of the wins coming via shootout and the other two in overtime.
- Defenseman Paul Martin didn’t miss a beat in his return to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury suffered on Feb. 20 against Chicago. Martin led all Penguins in minutes played, finishing the night with 24:10 of ice time. He was crucial to Pittsburgh’s special teams play, skating for 3:01 on the man advantage and played 4:16 shorthanded minutes.
- Forward Tyler Kennedy also returned to the ice after missing the Penguins’ 6-5 shootout win over the Maple Leafs on Feb. 26 with a lower-body injury. He skated for 16:19 minutes and fired three pucks at the net.
- The end of the first period and the start of the second was filled with penalties. After Keith Aulie got whistled for hooking at the 18:33 mark of the first, James Neal went to the box just 40 seconds later for slashing. The four-on-four opportunity carried over into the second period before Pittsburgh’s bench got a penalty for too many men on the ice after Aulie’s release – giving Toronto a short five-on-three power play. Then just 20 seconds after Neal left the box, Joffrey Lupul got two minutes for tripping – giving Pittsburgh just over a minute on the power play when their bench minor ended.
- The Penguins’ No. 1 ranked penalty kill unit stymied all five Toronto power-play opportunities. Zbynek Michalek led the Penguins with 4:36 shorthanded minutes, followed by Martin’s 4:16 minutes. Craig Adams led Penguins forwards with 3:32 shorthanded minutes, with Maxime Talbot close behind with 3:32 of time on the penalty kill.
- The Maple Leafs were awarded a power play with 3:18 remaining in regulation and the score tied 2-2 after defenseman Ben Lovejoy went off for tripping, but they couldn't capitalize.
#1. Mikhail Grabovski
Center - 84
#2. Matt Niskanen
Defenseman - 2
#3. Phil Kessel
Center - 81
Author: Michelle Crechiolo