The Penguins earned a point on Monday in Toronto to improve to 6-0-3 in their last nine games, which could prove crucial to their playoff hopes.

“I think we'll look at this as hopefully an important point here down the road,” Sidney Crosby said. “It's a close game. It could have went either way. Obviously, we would’ve liked to get the extra one, but we can't go back now. We did some good things in the game, and we just got to move by it.”

Rickard Rakell and Drew O’Connor scored for Pittsburgh, while Alex Nedeljkovic made 20 saves in his ninth straight start. Jake McCabe got the overtime winner in Toronto’s 3-2 victory, while Auston Matthews recorded his 65th (!) goal of the season, and Matthew Knies also got on the board in regulation.

The Penguins now have 84 points after the 3-2 overtime loss, which keeps them behind Detroit for the second Wild Card spot despite being tied, since the Red Wings have a game in hand. The Islanders, who are in third place in the Metro with 85 points, also have a game in hand.

“It’s great. That's how you got to play. We need every point, we need wins right now,” Nedeljkovic said of the team’s determination. “We dominated that whole game. I don't really think that there was ever a time where (we didn’t)… maybe in the start of the second period there, but, like, that was it. We were all over them. A couple bounces a different way and maybe we got three or four ourselves. But we played great, we’ll take the point and move on.”

Nedeljkovic speaks with the media

The Penguins had a tremendous start, and eventually got rewarded with the goal from Rakell with just under two minutes to go in the first period. His line with Evgeni Malkin and Michael Bunting has been a big part of the team’s success over this last week in particular, and the trio came through with another huge tally tonight.

That one came on even strength, with the Penguins unable to take advantage of two power plays in that opening frame. That theme continued into the second, where Pittsburgh had a lot of time on the man-advantage with Toronto taking three more penalties, all of them coming after Knies evened it at 1-1. The captain endured one particularly tough sequence when he drew an interference call on Jake McCabe, who sent Crosby colliding with the net.

He skated slowly to the bench and switched out a skate, as “my whole steel was pretty gone (after hitting the post), and I don’t have the replacement steel.” Once Crosby was good to go, a puck deflected up and off his face while he simultaneously got hit with a stick on the follow-through, and then he collided with Matthews. Crosby, who ended up with a bloody lip, joked wryly that he should have just gotten off the ice after the puck/stick incident.

Crosby speaks with the media

Head Coach Mike Sullivan said afterward that Crosby and co. did everything but score when it came to the power play, with the guys creating a number of Grade-A looks.

“They just got to stay with it,” Sullivan said. “I think they're, without a doubt, moving in the right direction. Obviously, if the power play can chip in and score for us, it increases our chances of winning here. But I do think they helped us gain momentum tonight, and that's an important element. Sometimes, you don't always score a goal, but you don't want to lose momentum from it. And I thought they helped us gain momentum tonight.”

Conversely, it took Matthews all of three seconds to convert a tripping penalty assessed to Erik Karlsson 1:19 into the final frame. Nedeljkovic wanted that one back, calling that goal “a little deflating, so it's pretty tough to give that up. But I give the guys a lot of credit, they battled through. They battled back, got a good bounce, went to the net, tied it up and bailed me out in that aspect.”

O’Connor got the go-ahead goal at the 13:38 mark, and ended up starting the overtime period alongside Karlsson and Lars Eller, with Crosby unavailable to go over the boards first because of a skate issue. The Maple Leafs got possession and got a change while Pittsburgh’s three were stuck out there, and McCabe ended up scoring on a sequence where Nedeljkovic felt he was too aggressive playing Matthews. That kept the Penguins goaltender from getting over in time to play the cross-ice pass.

“Made that push across a little longer than it needed to be, and just didn’t get set, didn’t get down fast enough, didn’t make a save,” he said.

Nedeljkovic, always candid when it comes to assessing his play, was pretty hard on himself afterward, but his teammates felt like he played solid.

“He was great,” Crosby said. “I thought both teams had a few looks. He made some big saves, Ned did, and then we had a couple looks we came close on. It was a pretty tight game from both sides. I thought we competed and found a way to get a point, so hopefully we can build off that.”