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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

WHAT HAPPENED
 
The Penguins defeated the Maple Leafs, 4-1, in a historic milestone evening. Sidney Crosby recorded four points (one goal and three assists) and hit career benchmarks of 100 goals, 200 assists and 300 points all on consecutive scores. Evgeni Malkin finished with four assists, including his 200th career point. The Pascal Dupuis-Crosby-Malkin line generated the surge of offense that coach Michel Therrien wanted from them when he redrew the lines. Toronto scored the first goal of the game but the Penguins responded with four unanswered scores. Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead until the 12:15 mark of the third period. Until that third goal was scored (Crosby's 100), Marc-Andre Fleury made key saves to maintain the Penguins' advantage. Pittsburgh looked fresh in the third period for the first time since the Sweden trip and may be finally getting their legs back after the overseas adventure.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Sidney Crosby celebrates his 100th career goal with Evgeni Malkin (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: The Dupuis-Crosby-Malkin line
Don't expect Crosby and Malkin to net four points every night, but it was the injection of the life the paltry offense needed to break out. Two of the Penguins' four goals occurred on the power play but the two even-strength goals were scored by the No. 1 unit. Dupuis scored on a beautiful pass from Crosby with a back-hander from in front of the net. Crosby single-handedly scored his 100th career goal. He rushed down the right side and deflected a Malkin pass to behind the cage. Crosby beat the defenseman to the puck and threw it back towards the slot, at which point it caromed off the Leafs Mikhail Grabovski and into the net. It seems fitting that all the great opportunities that Crosby previously had to get 100, it would occur on an ugly, broken play. Malkin also picked up his game and looked inspired - hustling to negate an icing and back-checking hard. Dupuis was, well, Dupuis. You get the same thing from him no matter the circumstances. He went to the net, used his body, was responsible defensively and skated hard. I know Therrien said the line wasn't permanent, but after that performance he should at least give it an extended look.

What Didn't Work: Too Many Penalties
The Penguins spent 14 minutes in the penalty box, including a sequence in the first period where they had three consecutive penalties for eight minutes of short-handed time. If it weren't for Fleury, the Leafs could have mounted a gluttonous lead. The penalty killing units deserve credit for their work, especially with so many consecutive shifts. It had to be tiring but they fought through it. It helped that the Maple Leafs don't have a ton of offensive fire power. The team can't take that many penalties and expect to get away with it against better opponents.
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
This is a no-brainer on a night when Crosby accomplished the statistical hat trick of career milestones. He netted his 100th goal, 200th assist and 300th point on three consecutive scores. First, he set up Dupuis' second goal of the season with a nifty cross-crease pass to hit 200 assists. Crosby followed that with a bullet-pass through the legs of Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn for an easy Miroslav Satan tap-in for his 300th point. Then Crosby followed a loose puck behind the net and threw it off of the Leafs Grabovski for his 100th goal. But Crosby wasn't done yet. The Penguins captain then made another beautiful cross-ice pass to Petr Sykora for another assist. For those scoring at home that brings Crosby's career totals to 100 goals, 202 assists and 302 points. Oh, did I mention that he's only 21 years old and missed nearly half of last season? Well, consider it mentioned now. Crosby was energized all night and if it weren't for a couple missed opportunities and some good saves by Toronto's Curtis Joseph, he may have ended up with a six- or seven-point night.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Pittsburgh had to kill nearly eight straight minutes worth of penalties to start the game, starting with Alex Goligoski's four-minute double-minor high-sticking penalty. The Penguins killed the majority of the time, until Nik Antropov buried a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury at 14:25. Pittsburgh killed the other three times they were down a man. Toronto only converted one power play in 12:42 minutes.

Malkin has played like the best player in the world in the last two games. In that span he's scored a goal and added six assists for seven points. He's scored a point in five of the Penguins' six games, totaling 10 points (2G-8A) in six games. He may even be playing better than Crosby right now, and that is not easy to do.

Fleury has been outstanding in four of the last five games. He's elevated his level of play and cannot be overlooked in the Penguins success. He registered another solid performance against the Maple Leafs, stopping 26-of-27 shots. The Flower is blossoming.

The new line combinations worked just the way Therrien wanted them to. The top line was a force all evening, creating and converting scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity. The second line had less offensive impact but generated a few chances. The third line played at a high level. Maxime Talbot and Tyler Kennedy were going at full speed and seemed to compliment the skilled Satan nicely. The tandem spent a bulk of time in the Leafs zone and played well defensively. The fourth line didn't register much ice time with a lot of special teams play throughout the game.

Speaking of the fourth line, Fox Chapel's Bill Thomas played in his first game at Mellon Arena in a Penguins uniform. He played one second shy of seven minutes and saw duty on Pittsburgh's penalty killing unit. And in an ironic twist, the game day program ran a nice feature on Thomas. George and Karen Thomas should be proud of their son.

Satan may have found a nice niche for himself as a power-play sniper. The free-agent signee had minimal success skating on the top line but seemed to blend well with the third line. However, there is no doubting he's dangerous with the man-advantage. Satan netted his third power-play goal of the season in four games. He can get quality minutes on the third line and be a hired gun on the power play. Maybe that's his role with this team. Who knows? The season is still short and it's only one game but I liked what I saw from him tonight.

Petr Sykora got his first goal of the season - on the power play. Good for Sykora, who has battled through the flu and a groin injury to get back in the Penguins' lineup.

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson put his top defensive pairing against the Dupuis-Crosby-Malkin line. His tandem featured veteran Tomas Kaberle and rookie first-round-pick Luke Schenn. It was a quick lesson on the talent level in the NHL for the youngster, who's only 18 years old. The No. 5 overall pick in June's draft did what he could but it wasn't enough to stop the Penguins. There's no shame in being schooled by the likes of Crosby and Malkin. He's going to be a great player but I'm sure it was an eye-opening experience.

The Penguins power play continues to dominate. Pittsburgh scored eight goals in its last 21 opportunities, although one of those power plays was late against Toronto when the game was already over. The team has scored a man-advantage goal in five straight games.

Curtis Joseph got the start in net for the Leafs instead of regular starter Vesa Toskala. It may have been a blessing considering Toskala's lights out play so far this season. He shut out the N.Y. Rangers on Friday night and was given a chance to rest. The 41-year-old Joseph stopped 21 shots.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 3-2-1 on the season. The Penguins finished their four-game homestand with a 2-1-1 record. Pittsburgh will travel to Boston for a showdown with the Bruins on Monday. The game will be the first North American road test for Pittsburgh.

> Toronto scored the game's first goal on a power play. The Penguins responded with four unanswered goals for a 4-1 victory. Nik Antropov scored for the Maple Leafs. Pittsburgh goal scorers were Dupuis, Satan, Crosby and Sykora.

> Pittsburgh went 2 for 4 on the power play. They converted on two of the first three opportunities. The power play has scored on eight of its last 21 chances, registering at least one goal in five straight games.

> Sidney Crosby set three milestones while compiling one goal and three assists for four points. Crosby passed the 100-goal, 200-assist and 300-point mark in his career. Crosby has six points in the last two games (1G-5A).

> Evgeni Malkin has seven points in the last two games. He recorded a four-point game with four assists against Toronto. He netted a goal and two assists against Washington. He has registered a point in five of PIttsburgh's six games and leads the team with 10 points (2G-8A) through six games. On Crosby's 100th goal, Malkin notched his 200th career point.

> Petr Sykora scored his first goal of the season on a power play in the third period. Sykora's goal was the Penguins' fourth of the game and cemented the victory.

> Defenseman Kris Letang was the only Penguins player not named Crosby or Malkin to register an assist in the game. He helped set up Crosby's goal.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Sidney Crosby, PIT
2. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT
 "That's not what you play for but they're a great
accomplishment. That's basically it."
-Sidney Crosby on hitting three milestones
 
LINKS



Author: Sam Kasan

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