On the road again…
The Pittsburgh Penguins returned to Toronto for the second time in the last week to meet the Leafs for the third time this season. Taking the previous game in a shootout, and rallying back against Boston on Tuesday, the Penguins were looking to strike hard and fast, hoping to extend their point streak while continuing to climb to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Leafs, for their part, were in desperate need of a win if they hoped to keep their playoff contention alive.
The first period passed without a goal, both teams owning their defensives zone while barely affording the other an inch. The teams would exchange penalties, but neither team would be able to convert. After twenty minutes, despite a couple of good opportunities in the final five minutes, the scoreboard would read 0-0. In total, 15 shots would be registered on goal; 6 by Pittsburgh, 9 by Toronto.
Halfway through the second period, Tyler Bozak’s seventh goal of the season put Toronto up by one. Off the rush, Pittsburgh would lose sight of Bozak who, in turn, was set up by Cody Franson before banking in on an open net. A minute and a half later, Leo Komarov was whistled for holding, sending Pittsburgh to the power play for the second time in the second frame. Despite being up a body, the Penguins couldn’t bank a shot on goal and the penalty expired without any real production. Both teams would continue their defensive play through the remainder of the period, and inspite of some close calls in the final two minutes, at the second horn the board would read 1 to 0 in favour of Toronto.
Toronto continued to dominate early in the third, testing net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury heavily in the first five minutes of the period. With 7:18 left to play in regulation, Pascal Dupuis would effectively end Ben Scrivens shut-out bid, tying the game. With Chris Kunitz winning a battle along the boards and sending the puck down the line, Sidney Crosby was able to pick it up before dishing a no-look, backhand pass to Dupuis who had nothing but wide open net standing in his way. A minute later, Brooks Orpik was sent to the box for a trip, sending the Pens to the penalty kill. Toronto applied the pressure, Fleury losing his stick in the process but ultimately denying the Leafs’ as the Penguins successfully killed the penalty off with four minutes left. Fleury would be required to come up big in the final three and a half minutes when a broken Pittsburgh stick resulted in a breakaway for Komarov. Fleury had no trouble denying him. Toronto, however, built momentum from the chance and would absolutely swarm the net. However, a big save by Fleury at one end opened up the opportunity for Pittsburgh to score their second of the night, the goal credited to Dupuis. On a rush, Kunitz was able to find Dupuis in the slot who then snapped into the goal for the lead. In a last minute attempt to tie it up, Toronto pulled Scrivens. With 0:22 left in regulation, Orpik was sent to the box for the third time, the result of a hit on Phil Kessel. But it would be to no avail as a Craig Adams would send a blocked shot from the point down the ice and into the empty net. Once again, with less than ten minutes left, the Penguins came back to win the game 3 to 1.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 27:40 of ice time, followed by Paul Martin with 26:04. Pascal Dupuis, with two goals, had seven shots on goal while Beau Bennett had four. As a whole, Pittsburgh sent 27 shots toward Scrivens while Fleury faced 29. Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis each enjoyed a two-point night while Sidney Crosby added to his own tally with one.
Pittsburgh continues to be without Evgeni Malkin. Malkin, injured in the Penguins prior contest against Toronto, will be out for at least another week with an upper body injury.
The Penguins will return to Pittsburgh, where they will face a three game home stand beginning with the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon. Game time is 1:00pm.