Tomas Kaberle’s goal 2:26 into overtime Tuesday night gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena.
The loss was the 12th in 13 games for the Penguins (8-19-8) and their fourth under new head coach Michel Therrien. However, all four defeats under Therrien were by one goal.
“It’s been four games in a row that we could have won,” Therrien said. “We’re facing a lot of adversity and having a hard time to find the formula right now to win the close games. Every single game we are there. We have to keep our focus. It’s tough.”
The teams battled to a scoreless tie through the first period.
Mark Recchi got the Penguins on the scoreboard 7:29 into the second period. On a two-man advantage, he deflected Sergei Gonchar’s slap-shot into the net. John LeClair earned the other assist.
Toronto’s Alexander Khavanov answered 1:07 later when he slammed in a rebound off Mats Sundin’s shot.
The Maple Leafs grabbed a 2-1 lead with 37.7 seconds to go when Sundin’s slap-shot deflected off a skate and sailed over Marc-Andre Fleury’s left shoulder and into the net for a power-play goal.
The Penguins tied it at 2-2 in the third period. Michel Ouellet scored a power-play goal with 7:34 to go. On his knees, Sidney Crosby slid from behind the net to the near post. Crosby’s pass rebounded off goaltender Mikael Tellqvist and came back to him. Crosby kicked the puck from his skate to his stick and sent it across the crease to Ouellet, who slammed it in for a goal. Gonchar earned the other assist.
“I just try not to give up on the play,” Crosby said. “I worked my way to the front of the net. I think Ouellet did a good job of just getting open on the side of the net there. He’s been playing well in front.”
Ouellet was not surprised to receive the unlikely pass.
“I just had to bury it,” Ouellet said. “We have to be ready. He can see everything on the ice. And you have to be ready to bury those.”
The two nearly hooked up again later in the period. However, Crosby’s pass to Ouellet was too hard for him to handle and the puck hopped over his blade.
“After my goal, I couldn’t believe it just bounced over my blade,” Ouellet said. “Next time I won’t miss that for sure.”
The Penguins had a golden opportunity to cash in late in the third period. They had a two-man advantage for 2:00, but failed to convert against Toronto.
“We had the opportunity to win the game there. We made some bad decisions,” Therrien said. “When you don’t win, you tense up and you rush things because the confidence is not there. I thought we rushed some decisions. Definitely, that was a big part of it.
“I wish I had the answer, but right now I don’t have the answer.”
Recchi was clearly frustrated after the game.
“We have to find ways to win. We really didn’t play that great, but we had an opportunity with a five-on-three to score a goal,” he said. “You have to score on those – that’s the bottom line. When you have a 2-2 game, you have to bear down and score on those.”
The Penguins did not produce a good scoring chance in overtime as the Maple Leafs dominated play. Kaberle, who was alone in the slot, blasted a shot past Fleury for the game-winning goal.
“It’s a different style on the four-on-four. We don’t adjust well to the four-on-four,” said Therrien about the Penguins’ overtime struggles. “I think, five-on-five, we’re pretty sharp and we’re getting better. Four-on-four, right now, we’re on our heels instead of on our toes.”
The Penguins stay home to meet New Jersey on Thursday.
ICE CHIPS: Andre Roy and Brooks Orpik were the Penguins’ healthy scratches…Matt Murley and Mario Lemieux remained out of the lineup with injuries…Jason Allison was Toronto’s healthy scratch…The announced attendance was 17,132.