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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 2

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh began the season outshooting each of their first two opponents in getting back-to-back wins on opening weekend. They were outshot in each of their next two games, gaining just one victory. The Penguins got back to basics in regards to getting pucks on net against the Maple Leafs, resulting in a 14-2 advantage in shots after one period of play, scoring twice on those shots, for a 2-0 lead.

There are reasons why certain teams have the ability to rise above the rest and become champions. The Penguins proved they have that inner drive during their run to the Cup last spring, and showed on this night why they might have that same quality in 2009-10.

It was a sequence you won’t find on the score sheet, but following back-to-back shifts where Toronto kept the Penguins pinned in their own end, the trio of Jordan Staal-Matt Cooke-Tyler Kennedy were able to get the puck deep into the Toronto zone, establish a formidable cycle, and get momentum back on an even keel. Such work prevented the Leafs from further denting the Penguins’ lead after they had just scored their first goal.

Jordan Staal continues to look comfortable taking shifts on the wing with Evgeni Malkin. The duo saw significant action together for the second consecutive game, and the result was Malkin setting up Staal for a goal for the second time in as many games. Staal showed tremendous natural goal-scoring instincts in driving right to the ‘house area’ in front of the net and firing a laser top-shelf over the shoulder of Leafs netminder Vesa Toskala.
TORONTO (AP) -Sidney Crosby scored two power-play goals, and Evgeni Malkin had three assists to help the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the winless Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Saturday night.

Crosby's goals, both set up by Malkin, came in the second period to put the defending Stanley Cup champions up 4-1 and erase any hopes the hosts might have had of mounting a comeback.

Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Sergei Gonchar also scored for the Penguins (4-1-0), who were coming off a grinding 5-4 win over Philadelphia on Thursday night as they continue a grueling stretch of five games in eight days. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 18 shots to remain unbeaten.

Jordan Staal watches his third-period shot elude Toronto goaltender
Vesa Toskala to make the score 5-2 Pittsburgh.
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Relentless Pressure
The Penguins came out flying in the offensive zone for the second consecutive night. Taking advantage of a distinct advantage in both overall team speed and skill level, the Penguins repeatedly trapped the Maple Leafs inside the Toronto offensive zone, especially in the first period. Such activity led to a huge disparity in shots early in the game, as Toronto was fortunate to not find themselves down by more than two goals after the opening 20 minutes. Maintaining this formula over the course of the season will allow the Penguins to remain the ‘road warriors’ they have been under Dan Bylsma.

What Could Have Gone Better: Allowing Early Goals
As a rule, goals allowed early and late in periods generally tend to lead to losing games. Twice on Saturday the Penguins were able to withstand goals by the Maple Leafs at the beginning of periods. Jay Rosehill scored 2:02 into the second period and Niklas Hagman tallied 1:01 into the third period. Allowing two goals early in periods did not burn the Penguins on this evening, but it could in closer games down the road.
Evgeni Malkin led the Penguins with a season-high three assists, but it was energy forward Matt Cooke who made the difference for the Penguins, and allowed them to jump into an early 2-0 lead. Cooke picked up a loose puck in the Toronto end just 3:20 into the opening period and his wrist shot went through a screen and over the left shoulder of Vesa Toskala to give the Penguins the 1-0 lead.

Later in the period, Cooke drew a roughing call against Toronto’s Colton Orr, and the Penguins made the Leafs’ tough guy pay when Sergei Gonchar’s wrist shot found its way into the back of the net. Cooke also set a tone for the entire team when he repeatedly failed to be coaxed into the Maple Leafs’ post-whistle skirmishes, as Toronto had to kill five penalties as opposed to the Penguins’ two.
Pittsburgh struck first for the third consecutive road game off a broken play near the top of the near circle of the Leafs' end. Jordan Staal carried the puck into the middle of the Toronto end before it was pokechecked off his stick. Players from both teams tried to corral the puck, but it was Matt Cooke who eventually controlled it after it went off Tyler Kennedy. A high wrist shot through a screen later, Cooke had the Penguins off and running with a goal over the glove hand of Vesa Toskala. Pittsburgh 1, Toronto 0.

Sergei Gonchar gave the Penguins a 2-0 advantage when his wrist shot went through the five hole of Toskala during a Penguins’ power play midway through the first period. Toskala couldn’t handle a dump into the zone by Ruslan Fedotenko, and Chris Kunitz quickly jumped on the loose puck, sending it to Gonchar at the point. Gonchar skated towards the middle of the ice to open a shot for himself before firing on net. Pittsburgh 2, Toronto 0.

Jay Rosehill picked up his first National Hockey League tally when he poked home a loose puck on the far side of Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease 2:01 into the second period. Jamal Mayers threw the puck onto Fleury from behind the net, but the Penguins netminder was unable to control the centering pass as it bounced off his stick and landed right to Rosehill. Pittsburgh 2, Toronto 1.

Sidney Crosby scored the Penguins’ second power-play goal of the evening just 31 seconds after Rosehill’s goal, and 15 seconds after Matt Stajan went to the penalty box for holding. Evgeni Malkin’s original shot missed the net to the left of Toskala, but the puck ricochet directly off the boards to Crosby for the easy score. Pittsburgh 3, Toronto 1.

With 14:31 gone by in the second period, Crosby scored his second goal of the game, the Penguins’ third power-play goal of the night, by deflecting home a point shot from Malkin through the legs of Toskala, who did get a piece of the puck, but couldn’t prevent it from getting through. Gonchar had the other assist. Pittsburgh 4, Toronto 1.

Toronto cut the Penguins’ lead in half once again, as Niklas Hagman fired a rebound past the blocker of Fleury 1:01 into the third period. Fleury stopped the original shot by Rickard Wallin, but directed the rebound right onto the stick of Hagman. Pittsburgh 4, Toronto 2.

Toronto center John Mitchell, covering up for one of his defensemen, attempted to pass the puck behind his own net from far-side to near-side, but Malkin picked his pocket on the weak passing attempt. Malkin fed the puck to the slot where Jordan Staal was streaking all alone, and Staal buried the puck over the shoulder of Toskala for his second goal in as many games. Pittsburgh 5, Toronto 2.
As their young centers continue to come into their own, the Penguins have begun to become a dominant team in the faceoff department early in the 2009-10 season. Through the first five games of the season, the Penguins have won the faceoff battle three times, lost once, and tied on opening night. The Penguins won 34 of 63 faceoffs (54%) against the Maple Leafs, with Sidney Crosby once again leading the way with 17 wins in 25 attempts (68%). Crosby went 8-1 on faceoffs in the opening period as the Penguins opened a commanding 2-0 lead.

Veteran defenseman Jay McKee continues to establish his role as a defensive presence along the Penguins’ blue line. A noted shot blocker, McKee will probably need plenty of ice after this game because he blocked a season-high seven shots on the night, five more than the next-closest player. McKee looked like a goaltender at the 13:20 mark of the second period when he made not one but two pad saves with his left leg on quality shots from the high-slot area.

Head coach Dan Bylsma twice rewarded Penguins’ tough guy Eric Godard for a great all-around game Saturday. First, Godard was given a chance to play with Sidney Crosby during an even strength shift, and the two cycled the puck well together, almost resulting in a goal. Later, during a penalty to the Leafs Alexi Ponikarovsky in the final two minutes, Godard was given a chance to play in front of the net on the top power play. Godard was very effective all night creating off cycles, playing a smart game while the Leafs’ enforcers continued to take bad penalties and dropping the gloves early with Colton Orr, while earning a season-high 7:28 of ice time.

Two nights after Philadelphia fans continued to boo his every touch of the puck, Sidney Crosby was showered with cheers by the Toronto fans after each of his second-period power-play goals.  
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, M. Cooke (1), 3:20 1st period: Penguins 1, Maple Leafs 0
PIT, S. Gonchar PP (1), 10:23 1st period: Penguins 2, Maple Leafs 0
TOR, J. Rosehill (1), 2:01 2nd period: Penguins 2, Maple Leafs 1
PIT, S. Crosby PP (3), 2:32 2nd period: Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 1
PIT, S. Crosby PP (4), 14:31 2nd period: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1
TOR, N. Hagman (2), 1:01 3rd period: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 2
PIT, J. Staal (2), 2:08 3rd period: Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 2

> The Penguins 33-20 advantage in shots was the first time they had outshot the Maple Leafs in the past eight games between the two teams.

> The Penguins scored a power-play goal in consecutive games for the first time in 2009-10. The Penguins three power-play scores marked the first time this season they scored more than once on the power play in a single game.

> Pittsburgh gave the Maple Leafs only two power plays on the night, the fewest amount taken through the first five games. The Penguins’ five power plays meant that they had more power plays than their opponent for the first time this season.

> Matt Cooke’s goal in the first period was his 100th in the NHL. Cooke scored the first 83 goals of his career with the Vancouver Canucks, three more during a 17 game stretch with the Washington Capitals at the end of the 2007-08 season, and 14 since joining the Penguins prior to the start of last season.

> Evgeni Malkin, who tied Crosby and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin with 32 multiple-point performances a season ago, recorded back-to-back multi-point games for the first time in 2009-10 with his three assists. Malkin had a goal and an assist against the Flyers on Thursday night.

> Malkin also continues to haunt the Maple Leafs. His 31 career points (7G-24A) against the Maple Leafs are his second-most against one team (33 points vs. Philadelphia).

> Jordan Staal, whose only career hat trick came in the Air Canada Centre back on Feb. 10, 2007, notched his sixth career tally against the Leafs, most for him against any non-divisional opponent.

> Crosby recorded his second multi-point performance of the season after being held scoreless the previous two games by the Phoenix Coyotes and Flyers.

> Pittsburgh improved to 3-0 on the road for the second time in three seasons. The Penguins won four consecutive road games to begin the 2006-07 season. The only other time the Penguins started 3-0 or better on the road was 1994-95, when they went 5-0-1 in their first six games away from the then-Civic Arena, including a 4-0 start that season as well.
1. S. Crosby
2. S. Gonchar
3. E. Malkin
"Right from the start our power play was executing
and set the tone for our team ... When you
win the special teams (battle), that’s a
good recipe (for success)."

- Head coach Dan Bylsma on the Penguins'
5-2 victory over Toronto.


Author: Jason Seidling

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