TORONTO -- Pittsburgh erased some bad memories at the Air Canada Centre with a dominating 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in a “Hockey Night in Canada” showdown. The Penguins impressive performance was boosted by their execution on special teams.
“Right from the start our power play was executing and set the tone for our team,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We didn’t get a lot of PKs against, which is a great thing, but when we did we were able to kill them. When you win the special teams (battle), that’s a good recipe (for success).”
The Penguins killed off two shorthanded situations and tallied three power-play scores for a plus-3 ratio.
Pittsburgh went 3 for 5 with nine shots on the man-advantage, although the two the team didn’t score on came in the third period with the game well out of reach in favor of the Penguins.
“We just capitalized on our chances. I don’t think we did a whole lot differently,” Crosby said of the power play’s success. “We just executed and got a good bounce off the boards that one time. We gave ourselves a chance by executing well.”
The Penguins had power-play goals from Sergei Gonchar and two from Sidney Crosby
. Gonchar got Pittsburgh’s first man-advantage tally when his shot from the point through a screen eluded Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala halfway through the first period.
Sometimes you do good things and you don’t get rewarded. Tonight we did a lot of great things and we were rewarded ... We were shooting the puck and when you have shots get through to the net and a lot of traffic in front of the net, good things will happen. - Mike Yeo
“Sometimes you do good things and you don’t get rewarded,” said assistant coach Mike Yeo, who oversees the team’s power play. “Tonight we did a lot of great things and we were rewarded. You don’t want to just move the puck around the perimeter. You want to make sure you’re shooting the puck whenever you get a chance. We were shooting the puck and when you have shots get through to the net and a lot of traffic in front of the net, good things will happen.”
Then Crosby chipped in two power-play goals in the second period to spring Pittsburgh to a 4-1 lead. On Crosby’s first score, which came 31 seconds after Toronto scored its first goal to make it a 2-1 game, he was standing to the side of the net and re-directed an Evgeni Malkin
slap shot into the goal.
The goal was a key turning point in the game and the perfect response to the Maple Leafs’ goal.
“You always want your team to respond, whether it’s with a good shift or with an opportunity on the power play,” Bylsma said. “When you score that goal, that’s a big goal. The last two games we’ve been able to answer back. We know teams are going to play well. They’re going to get to their game. But when you can answer back with a hit or a physical shift or a power-play goal and you can answer when a team is playing well, that’s a big part of the game.
“That was a big turning point in the game, getting that third goal, getting that two-goal cushion right after they scored. (It) was a big momentum swing for our team.”
For his second goal, Crosby was in the right place at the right time. Again, he was stationed to the right of the Maple Leafs’ goal. Malkin took a shot from the slot that went wide left of the net, ricocheted off the backboards and caromed right to Crosby’s stick. The Penguins captain, with quick reflexes, alertly pushed the puck over the goal line past a sprawling Toskala.
Crosby had a few cracks on the late power-play chances to go for the hat trick tally but he came up short.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Crosby said about trying get that third score. “You don’t get those chances too often so if the opportunity is there, go for. It just didn’t happen. If it’s meant to be it will happen and it wasn’t meant to be.”
But it was meant to be for the Penguins’ power play, which was finally rewarded for its hard work and tireless effort.
“Right from the drop of the puck tonight you could tell that our guys were ready to play every aspect of the game,” Yeo said. “When they are zoned in like that, the attention to detail is there, they’re running the right routes, making the right decisions and usually you get rewarded for it. They were sharp right from the start and it was nice to see them get rewarded for their effort.”