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Aftermath: Maple Leafs 7, Penguins 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
Nothing went right for the Penguins in their 7-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pittsburgh surrendered 40 shots on goal and had trouble limiting the rebound and second- and third-chance opportunities. Pittsburgh permitted a lot of traffic in front of its net and couldn’t maintain any momentum in the attacking zone.

It was by far the worst performance by the Penguins this season. Pittsburgh has lost five of its past seven games and is at a low-point in the season.

The team will regroup and there will be a lot of soul searching in the locker room. How the Penguins respond will say a lot about their mental toughness and character. The game could end up as the wakeup call the Penguins needed to really get their act together.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Nik Antropov had a goal and two assists and six other Toronto players scored in the Maple Leafs' 7-3 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Pavel Kubina and Alexei Ponikarovsky each had a goal and an assist, Jonas Frogren scored his first NHL goal and Tomas Kaberle had three assists as the Maple Leafs netted a season-best seven goals.

Dominic Moore, Jeremy Williams and Niklas Hagman also scored for Toronto, which won for the fourth time in five games.

Petr Sykora scored twice and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, which allowed a season high for goals and lost for the fifth time in seven games.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Jeff Taffe and Jaime Sifers tangle (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Ruslan Fedotenko
Despite being undersized - giving an inch and 25 pounds - Ruslan Fedotenko dropped the gloves with Maple Leafs tough guy Andre Deveaux. It may have been to take out some frustration but still, the Ukraine native didn’t back down from the challenge. In fact, he initiated the brawl. Fedotenko showed guts and courage to stand toe-to-toe with a heavy weight.

What Didn't Work: Everything
The Penguins had a first period against the Maple Leafs that they would love to forget. Toronto outscored, 3-1, and outshot Pittsburgh, 16-6. Pittsburgh had trouble keeping traffic out from in the front of the net, with two of Toronto’s goals coming with bodies in the vision lane. Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t help his cause either by allowing two pucks to sneak through him. The Leafs built on their lead and never looked back. Toronto kept the pressure on all game and was relentless. 
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Despite the lopsided final, Petr Sykora notched two of Pittsburgh’s three goals in the game. The first came on a power play when he went to the net and collected a pass from Evgeni Malkin. Sykora was point-blank to the left of the net and roofed the puck into the goal. He notched his second goal of the contest in the third period by going to the front of the net and re-directing an Alex Goligoski shot into the cage. He also had a game-high seven shots.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Toronto ranks third in the NHL in shots per game. The Maple Leafs came out firing early in the first period. Through the first six-plus minutes of the game, Toronto held an 8-1 advantage in shots. The Leafs did the same in the second period with a 17-7 mark. Toronto registered 40 shots in the game.

The Maple Leafs were crashing the net early and getting under Marc-Andre Fleury’s skin. Jason Blake steamrolled Fleury while he was covering a rebound. On the next sequence Lee Stempniak took a few whacks at a puck covered by Fleury. Ryan Stone and Eric Godard came to Fleury’s aid but Stone was assessed a two-minute penalty for roughing.

Toronto notched the game’s opening goal on a power play with Stone in the box. Pavel Kubina took a slap shot from atop the far circle. The puck sneaked through Fleury and died in the middle of the crease. Dominic Moore was all alone to jam in the puck.

Evgeni Malkin, who looked shaken up following a hit by Jonas Frogren, evened the game with his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Malkin jumped over the boards with speed and collected a great breakout pass at the red line from Mark Eaton. He went wide on Leafs defenseman Jaime Sifers and was able to get around him. Malkin was one-on-one with Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala. The Russian swept the puck wide and backhanded it into the net.

The Penguins were a little confused on their defensive zone coverage midway through the second period, leading to Toronto’s second goal of the game. Pittsburgh was running around in its own zone, a step behind the Leafs’ passing. Blake found Jeremy Williams above the far circle - the same spot Toronto used to score its first goal. This time Williams blew the puck behind Fleury for the score.

The Maple Leafs continued their shooting clinic in the first period, leading to their third goal of the game. Alexei Ponikarovsky didn’t record an assist on the goal but he was the main reason Toronto scored. Frogren took an innocent looking slap shot from the near point. It would have been a routine save but Ponikarovsky jumped off his skates and blocked Fleury’s vision on the shot. As a result, Fleury didn’t pick up the trajectory of the puck until it was passing by him. That goal came at the 12:56 mark and was Toronto’s 16th shot of the game.

Toronto took a 4-1 lead on a Malkin turnover right in front of his own net. Malkin picked up the puck in the near corner. He skated towards his own goal with Mikhail Grabovski all over him. Malkin skated into the slot and tried to dish to one of his defenseman. However, Niklas Hagman intercepted his pass and sent a point-blank shot into the goal for his ninth score of the season.

The Penguins applied a lot of pressure after the midway point of the game. Pittsburgh registered a number of scoring chances and came within inches of getting a score. Leafs coach Ron Wilson subsequently called a time out to get his team to refocus even with his club ahead 4-1. It wasn’t a bad move on Wilson’s part. Pittsburgh can score in bunches and he wanted to eliminate any comeback before it got started. Following the time out, Therrien went with his nuclear option. He sent out the Malkin-Sidney Crosby-Petr Sykora line and the trio generated a number of scoring chances to keep the momentum in the Penguins favor.

Eric Godard tried to instigate a fight with Leafs brawler Andre Deveaux. Deveaux was not interested. Godard dropped his gloves and roughed up Deveaux but the Leaf took the punishment and got a Toronto power play as a result. On the ensuing power play, Kubina slapped home his seventh goal of the season to extend Toronto’s lead. The Penguins had built some momentum until that point and all they worked for was washed away as a result of the power-play goal.

Matt Cooke did his part to get the Penguins out of their slump. Sifers took some liberties on Cooke, but the Penguins forward wouldn’t back down. He dropped the gloves and took Sifers down to the ice. Sifers received an extra two minutes, putting Pittsburgh on a power play.

Cooke’s instigation helped lead to a Penguins’ power-play goal 58 seconds into the third period. Malkin was inside the near circle when his attempted shot was blocked. He collected his own rebound and sent a pass to Sykora, who was to the left of the goal. Sykora roofed a shot over Toskala’s shoulder.
   
Dany Sabourin replaced Fleury at the start of the third period. He stopped his first shot faced but surrendered a score on the second. Ponikarovsky got on the board for the Leafs when he re-directed a Matt Stajan slap shot through Sabourin’s five-hole.

When it rains it pours. The Leafs scored their seventh goal of the game on a power play. Sifers took a slap shot from the midpoint. The rebound ended up right on the stick of Nik Antropov in the slot. The Kazakh connected on his 11th goal of the season.

The Penguins didn’t quit, and notched their third goal of the game on a re-direction by Sykora in front of the net. Sykora was camped in front of the net when Alex Goligoski sent a shot-pass towards Sykora, who deflected the puck into the net for his second goal of the game and 12th of the season.

Brooks Orpik took a nasty stick to the face from Antropov. Orpik went down immediately and rose to his feet with blood trickling out of his mouth.

In some good news, Ryan Whitney - playing his first hockey game in six months for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - notched an assist. Whitney is expecting to rejoin the Penguins for their Dec. 23 game against Tampa Bay.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh dropped to 17-11-4 on the year, with an 8-4-2 mark at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh is 12-7-2 in its last 21 games. The Penguins are 1-1-1 when they wear their third jersey.

> Dominic Moore gave Toronto an early 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 7:45 of the first period. Evgeni Malkin tied the game at 9:49 with his team-leading 15th goal of the season. The Leafs built a 5-1 lead on goals from Jeremy Williams (4), Jonas Frogren (1), Niklas Hagman (9) and Pavel Kubina (7). Pittsburgh cut into the lead on Petr Sykora’s power-play goal 58 seconds into the third period. Toronto answered with its sixth goal of the game on Alexei Ponikarovsky’s 10th score of the year. Sykora notched his second goal of the game at 17:01 of the final period.

> Pittsburgh was outshot by the Maple Leafs, 40-23. Pittsburgh has only been outshot eight times in its past 21 games.

> Evgeni Malkin recorded a goal and assist against the Leafs to increase his NHL lead to 55 points (15G-40A). Malkin has eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in his last 12 games. Malkin finished the game with a minus-1 rating. He currently has a plus-19 rating on the season, tied for the third-best mark in the NHL.

> Malkin’s 40 assists are a league best. Malkin is on pace for a 100-assist season. Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100-assist seasons (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzkey and Bobby Orr).

> Malkin is currently riding an eight-game point streak. Over that span, he has accumulated five goals and 11 assists for 16 points. He’s notched an assist in all eight contests, his second longest streak of the season. Malkin recorded an assist in 13-straight games earlier this year, the third-best mark in franchise history.

> Sidney Crosby was held scoreless against the Maple Leafs. Crosby has seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points in his last 14 games. Crosby climbed the rankings and is now second in the league in scoring with 46 points (13G-33A). His 33 assists are second most in the league, behind only teammate Malkin’s 40.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (15+40=55) and Crosby (13+33=46). 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.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves in the loss to the Maple Leafs. Fleury is 5-1-0 in his last seven starts in goal.

> Petr Sykora notched two goals against the Maple Leafs. He now has 14 points in his last eight games (5G-9A). In his past four games, Sykora has two goals and five assists for seven points.

> Ryan Whitney, on a conditioning assignment with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, registered an assist for the Baby Penguins in his first hockey game in six months.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 81st straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,053.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Tomas Kaberle, TOR
2. Pavel Kubina, TOR
3. Nik Antropov, TOR
"Talk is cheap. You have to go out there and prove
it in your actions. Frankly, from my standpoint
this can’t happen again."
- Matt Cooke
 

 


Author: Sam Kasan

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