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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Prior to leaving for this five-game road trip the Penguins talked about simplifying their game and getting back to doing all of the little things that has made them so successful for most of the 2009-10 season. If the first game is an indication, the Penguins plan on practicing what they preach.

They totally dominated the Maple Leafs over the first two periods, outshooting them 33-21 as they took a 3-1 advantage into the third period. The Penguins were firing the puck from all angles and taking the body at every opportunity. Pittsburgh also excelled at the little things that usually add up to big things.

After Toronto had the advantage after the first period, the Penguins came back to hold a 34-25 edge in the faceoff dots. The Penguins also outhit the Leafs, 18-17, and blocked 34 Toronto shots, led by eight from Kris Letang. If the Penguins keep ending games with totals like those they are going to come home with quite a few victories the remainder of this trip.
TORONTO (AP) – Sergei Gonchar scored two goals during a 3-minute stretch in the second period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday night for their second victory in eight games.

Bill Guerin and Sidney Crosby also scored, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 42 shots for Pittsburgh in the first game of a five-game trip.

  Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal celebrate the Penguins' 4-1 victory
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Burying the Maple Leafs
Part of the reason the Penguins brought a four-game road losing streak into this game were a couple performances where they could have built upon a lead and buried their opposition. That was not a problem on this night. Seconds after Toronto had a great chance to tie the game at two apiece Sergei Gonchar scored his second goal of the game just before the end of the second period. Sidney Crosby netted a gorgeous goal 3:49 into the third period to stretch that lead to three goals and provide a cushion down the stretch.

What Could Have Gone Better: Too Many Shots
Two days after being pulled in a loss at Philadelphia, Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational against Toronto. He saw 43 shots, with 22 of those coming in the third period alone. Fleury turned aside 42 of those shots as he blanked the Maple Leafs over the final two periods.
Sergei Gonchar had missed the Penguins previous four games with a lower-body injury. He showed in his return to the lineup against the Maple Leafs just how much he means to this team. Gonchar’s two goals in the second period allowed the Penguins to break a 1-1 tie en route to the 4-1 victory. He picked up a third point when he helped setup Sidney Crosby’s third-period goal.

Gonchar saw 19:14 of ice time in his first action since Dec. 30 and was a team-best plus-3. He also registered six shots on goal and blocked five Toronto shots.
Pittsburgh registered the opening goal as Mark Eaton passed the puck from the center point to Sidney Crosby standing in the right corner. Crosby sent a backhand pass to Bill Guerin standing alone at the top of the crease and the puck glanced off the skate of the Penguins winger and under Jonas Gustavsson. Pittsburgh 1, Toronto 0.

Toronto knotted the score on a power play late in the first period. Phil Kessel brought the puck over the blue line coming down the left-wing boards and fed Matt Stajan standing in the slot. Stajan’s rocket of a one-timer landed over the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh 1, Toronto 1.

It took a replay review to confirm but Sergei Gonchar did help the Penguins regain the lead with a power-play goal at 14:14 of the second period. His slap shot from the right point went off the top of the left post and then off the back post and out of the net quickly. The referees went upstairs after the next stoppage and awarded the goal. Pittsburgh 2, Toronto 1.

Seconds after Gonchar came back onto the ice following a penalty he stepped into a drop pass from Malkin and rifled a shot over the glove of Gustavsson into the top corner to give the Penguins a two-goal lead heading into the final period. Pittsburgh 3, Toronto 1.

Crosby struck for possibly his most beautiful goal of the 2009-10 season early in the third period. He took a pass from Pascal Dupuis sprinting through the neutral zone and turned Tomas Kaberle inside-out in the Toronto end, creating a mini-break for himself. With one hand he slid the puck under the legs of Gustavsson. Pittsburgh 4, Toronto 1.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik saw only 2:57 of ice time before leaving the contest with an undisclosed injury. His absence meant the Penguins had to play a majority of the night with only five defensemen. Youngsters Kris Letang (25:18) and Alex Goligoski (24:41) picked up a lot of the extra minutes.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forward Ruslan Fedotenko each returned to the lineup against the Leafs. Gonchar had missed the previous four games with a lower-body injury, a stretch which saw the Penguins go 1-3. Fedotenko sat out the game on Thursday night against Philadelphia with an undisclosed injury.

Each of the Penguins’ first two goals were subject to video replay in the NHL war room, coincidently located in Toronto, and each time the goal was upheld. In the first period, Bill Guerin’s goal was called such on the ice and replay confirmed Guerin did not intentionally kick the puck behind Jonas Gustavsson. Play was actually allowed to continue in the second period when Sergei Gonchar’s shot went off the top of the left post and then the back post and out of the net quickly. At the next whistle it was determined the puck did cross the goal line.

Forward Luca Caputi, who came into the game with points in each of his first two games (1G-1A) since he was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, played his first career game in his hometown of Toronto. Caputi had 30-35 friends and relatives in attendance at the Air Canada Centre.
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, B. Guerin (14), 7:24 1st period: Penguins 1, Maple Leafs 0
TOR, M. Stajan PP (13), 18:48 1st period: Penguins 1, Maple Leafs 1
PIT, S. Gonchar PP (6), 14:44 2nd period: Penguins 2, Maple Leafs 1
PIT, S. Gonchar (7), 17:17 2nd period: Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 1
PIT, S. Crosby (27), 3:49 3rd period: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1

> Pittsburgh improves to 28-17-1 on the season. They continue to sit in the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference standings and their 28 wins are tied for third most in the NHL through Saturday’s early games.

> Since head coach Dan Bylsma took over on Feb. 15, 2009 the Penguins are 46-20-5. They have a 22-11-3 record on the road and are now 31-1 when they score four or more goals.

> The Penguins are now 1-0 on this season-long five-game road swing. They travel to Minnesota on Monday for an 8 p.m. national broadcast on Versus. Pittsburgh concludes the trip with a three-game trek through Western Canada to take on Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

> As a team the Penguins recorded 34 blocked shots against the Maple Leafs. Among the players with three-or-more blocks were: Kris Letang (8), Matt Cooke (5), Sergei Gonchar (5), Mark Eaton (4), Alex Goligoski (3) and Jay McKee (3).

> Sidney Crosby recorded a multiple-point effort for the second-consecutive game with his goal and an assist. Crosby now has five points (4G-1A) in his previous four games.

> Crosby has scored in all three meetings this season with the Maple Leafs (4 goals total) and has five tallies in his last five games against Toronto and 12 in his last 19 games against the Leafs.

> Evgeni Malkin continues to be a thorn in the Maple Leafs side. He registered two assists to give him 34 points (7G-27A) in 15 games against Toronto.

> Sergei Gonchar established a season high with two goals and tied his season high with three points against the Leafs. In 30 games Gonchar leads all Penguins defenders with 26 points (7G-19A).

> Winger Bill Guerin picked up his 14th goal of the season against the Leafs, second most on the team. Guerin has now scored five goals over his past nine games.

> Alex Goligoski assisted on Gonchar’s second goal and has picked up assists in three of his last four games. For the season, Goligoski ranks second among Penguins defenders with 21 points (6G-15A) in 36 games.

> Referee Don Van Massenhoven was honored prior to the game as this was the 1,000th game of his NHL career.
1. S. Gonchar
2. M.Fleury
3. S.Crosby
"It was a pretty big effort back there from our blue line
and Gonch (Sergei Gonchar) is a big part of that."
- Dan Bylsma


Author: Jason Seidling

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