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Aftermath: Maple Leafs 5, Penguins 4

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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The Penguins missed a golden opportunity to rack up some points on one of the Eastern Conferences bottom dwellers. Pittsburgh came up empty following its 5-4 loss to Toronto at the Air Canada Centre.

The road ahead for Pittsburgh is about to get rocky and will really test the team’s character and desire. On the slate are games against Montreal, Tampa Bay Columbus, Detroit, San Jose and a rematch with Toronto. The Penguins are a combined 2-5-0 against those teams this season.

With tough opponents ahead, the Penguins need to get two points when they play teams that are in the bottom of the standings - such as Toronto and Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh doesn’t want to look back at the end of season and think that the missed two points against a team like Toronto cost them a playoff spot.
(AP) - Jason Blake saved the Toronto Maple Leafs from a third-period collapse.

The streaky winger scored for the fourth straight game as the Maple Leafs pulled out a tight 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

 He beat Mathieu Garon with a wrist shot at 10:05 of a wild third period and the Maple Leafs managed to hold on for the win. They'd already blown a pair of two-goal leads to the desperate Penguins in the opening half of the frame.

Ian White, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan also scored goals for Toronto (19-23-8), which honoured Doug Gilmour's No. 93 during a pre-game ceremony.

Miroslav Satan, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy replied for the Penguins (24-22-5), who currently find themselves out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Matt Cooke lays into Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Never Say Die
The Penguins played from behind the entire game. Pittsburgh was able to erase deficits of 1-0, 3-1 and 4-2 to keep the outcome of the game in question. The Penguins played with a sense of desperation and refused to quit even when they trailed by two goals in the third period. They skated hard and forechecked hard all the way until the final horn.

What Didn't Work: System
Pittsburgh reemerged from its slump with the help of its trapping system. The defense-first approach strangled opposing teams’ offense and enabled the Penguins to earn a couple of wins. However, the Leafs goaded Pittsburgh to divert from its system and play a more open and flowing style - which played right into Toronto’s hands. 
Tyler Kennedy showed a lot of guts for Pittsburgh when he dropped the gloves with Toronto big hitting defenseman Luke Schenn. The Leafs’ 19-year-old rookie landed a monster check into Evgeni Malkin in front of the Pittsburgh bench. On the ensuing stoppage, Kennedy went after Schenn, even though he is three inches shorter and 33 pounds lighter. Kennedy got the worse of the battle but showed that he wouldn’t back down from a fight and wouldn’t hesitate to protect his teammates. Kennedy also scored a big third-period goal to tie the game at 4-4. He worked hard all game, played with a ton of energy and created chances for Pittsburgh.
Leafs defenseman Ian White not only rocks the moustache, he also gave Toronto an early lead by scoring the game’s opening goal. John Mitchell had the puck along the far wall and hit White in the high slot. The moustache’d defenseman went to the backhand and shot the puck behind Mathieu Garon, who was deep in his crease with traffic in front of him. Toronto 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Miroslav Satan missed a wide-open net early in the first period when he hit the post with Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala trapped out of net. He made up for his miss by drilling home his 14th goal of the season. Jason Blake took a shot on goal that was blocked. Satan picked up the puck with speed and skated into the Toronto zone. He blasted a slap shot from above the far circle short side on Toskala to tie the game. Pittsburgh 1, Toronto 1.

Toronto capitalized on a power play to take the lead in the second period. It took three consecutive shots on Garon to finally net the score. Anton Stralman took a shot from the point that Garon stopped. Nikolai Kulemin got the rebound but Garon made a great sprawling save to with his right arm. However, the third shot was the charm for Toronto. Nik Antropov picked up that second rebound and scored while Garon was helpless on the ice. Toronto 2, Pittsburgh 1.

The Maple Leafs upped their advantage with another second-period goal. Blake led a three-on-two rush. His shot was stopped by Garon. Dominic Moore picked up the rebound in the corner and threw a blind pass towards the net. Garon tried to cover the trickling puck with his glove when Alexei Ponikarovsky slammed the puck between Garon’s legs. Toronto 3, Pittsburgh 1.

Pittsburgh picked up a huge goal a minute into the third period to cut into the Leafs’ lead. Malkin made a great play with the puck, using the curl-and-drag to avoid a poke check and took a shot. Sidney Crosby picked up the loose puck and sent a shot into the goal with the Leafs scrambling. Toronto 3, Pittsburgh 2.

Toronto answered Pittsburgh’s goal with a score of its own 1:38 later. Luke Schenn skated the puck around the Penguins defense down low and made a centering pass to Matt Stajan by the crease. Stajan slammed the puck into the goal for his 12th of the season. Toronto 4, Pittsburgh 2.

The Penguins refused to go away. Exactly three minutes after Toronto re-took a two-goal lead, Malkin re-directed a shot from the point into the net to cut into the lead. Matt Cooke made the initial play by winning a battle along the boards. Cooke and Malkin were in front of the net when Ryan Whitney unleashed a shot. Malkin got his stick on the puck to record his team-leading 21st goal of the year. Toronto 4, Pittsburgh 3.

Tyler Kennedy tied the game with his ninth goal of the season. He carried the puck into the zone and ripped a shot from above the near circle that eluded Toskala. The puck may have be deflected by the Toronto defeseman's stick because Toskala looked confused as the puck sailed behind him. Pittsburgh 4, Toronto 4.

Blake reclaimed the lead for the Maple Leafs. Three Penguins collapsed to the net when Blake picked up the puck inside the far circle. Garon had five bodies in front of him as he tried to locate the puck. Blake whipped a shot into the net with Garon on his knees. Toronto 5, Pittsburgh 4.
Goaltender Mathieu Garon, who was acquired in a trade Jan. 17, made his first appearance and start for Pittsburgh in the game. He made 21 saves in the game but yielded five goals. It wasn’t the way he wanted his first game for the Penguins to go, but I’m sure he’ll be motivated to make up for it in his next game in goal.
> Pittsburgh dropped to 24-22-5 on the year, with a 12-11-3 mark on the road. The Penguins are 3-2-1 in their last six games. 

> TOR, Ian White (7), 5:23 1st period: Leafs 1, Penguins 0.
PIT, Miroslav Satan (14), 9:03 1st period: Penguins 1, Leafs 1.
TOR, Nik Antropov PP (15), 7:53 2nd period: Leafs 2, Penguins 1.
TOR, Alexei Ponikarovsky (15), 13:39 2nd period: Leafs 3, Penguins 1.
PIT, Sidney Crosby (20), 0:55 3rd period: Leafs 3, Penguins 2.
TOR, Matt Stajan (12), 2:33 3rd period: Leafs 4, Penguins 2.
PIT, Evgeni Malkin (21), 5:33 3rd period: Leafs 4, Penguins 3.
PIT, Tyler Kennedy (9), 6:47 3rd period: Penguins 4, Leafs 4.
TOR, Jason Blake (17), 10:05 3rd period: Leafs 5, Penguins 4.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal and an assist against the Maple Leafs to extend his NHL lead in points to 75 (21G-54A). Malkin’s 54 assists are a league best. In his last 11 games, Malkin has collected six goals and nine assists for 15 points.

> Sidney Crosby scored a goal and added an assist against Toronto. He is second in the league in scoring with 68 points (20G-48A) and his 48 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 54. Crosby has at least one point in nine of his last 10 games, posting five goals and 13 assists for 18 points in that span.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (21+54=75) and Crosby (20+48=68). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Mathieu Garon made 21 saves in his first start for the Penguins this season in the losing effort.

> Miroslav Satan notched his first goal in six games with his 14th of the season.

> Tyler Kennedy tallied his third goal in his past eight games.

> Max Talbot notched an assist against the Leafs. He has a point in four of his last five games (1G-3A).

> Ryan Whitney recorded an assist in the contest. He has tallied one goal and six assists for seven points in his last seven games.
1. L.Schenn, TOR
2. J.Blake, TOR
3. N.Antropov, TOR
“We've been guilty of having letdowns and when we've had
them we haven't really recovered from them. Every time
we're out there, it becomes that much more important.”
- Sidney Crosby told FSN Pittsburgh


Author: Sam Kasan

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