Crosby, Penguins have way with Maple Leafs
TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs apparently didn’t learn anything from the Penguins’ last game.
For a second consecutive contest, an opponent attempted to physically intimidate the Penguins, and it backfired.
Sidney Crosby scored two power-play goals, and Evgeni Malkin added three assists as the Penguins dominated the Maple Leafs in a 5-2 victory Saturday at Air Canada Centre.
“I wouldn’t want to try to play against our power play,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Those guys were very impressive tonight.”
Pittsburgh outshot Toronto, 33-20.
Penguins forwards Mike Rupp, Eric Godard and Craig Adams were assessed fighting majors against the Maple Leafs, who possess a number of heavyweights. Despite the fights, the Penguins were disciplined and only short-handed twice.
“That was important,” Orpik said. “We all know what kind of team (Toronto GM Brian) Burke wanted to build. We stayed out of the box tonight. It’s a lot easier to win when you have the puck.”
The Penguins’ power play has looked strong at times this season and was evidently ready to excel. Pittsburgh scored on its first three power plays and nearly did on its fourth.
“That’s not going to happen all the time,” Crosby said. “We just capitalized tonight.”
The Penguins have been solid defensively in 5-on-5 situations all season, and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was pleased to see his team win the special teams battle so decisively.
“That’s a good recipe for success,” he said.
Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala has been under considerable scrutiny in Toronto and was under siege immediately. Matt Cooke opened the scoring with a relatively weak goal at 3:20 of the first period by whipping a wrist shot past Toskala’s glove.
Sergei Gonchar gave the Penguins a two-goal edge when his wrist shot beat Toskala on a Pittsburgh power play. Ruslan Fedotenko provided a screen on the play.
“We just have to play better early in games,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s pretty depressing right now.”
Toronto is 0-3-1, and the Penguins improved to 4-1.
Two fights and a number of skirmishes took place in a period dominated by the Penguins. Pittsburgh outshot Toronto in the opening 20 minutes, 14-2.
Toronto came out with more jump in the second period and scored when Jay Rosehill punched in a loose puck in the goal mouth at the 2:01 mark. The goal was the first of Rosehill’s NHL career.
While that goal was being announced, however, the Penguins reclaimed a two-goal cushion on Crosby’s third goal of the season. The Penguins had just started a power play when Crosby corralled the rebound of a wide Malkin shot and banged it past Toskala.
“It’s always nice to get a goal back real fast like we did,” Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said.
Crosby and Malkin converted another power-play chance later in the period. Malkin, standing by the right wing boards, took a feed from Gonchar and blasted a slap shot that was deflected in by Crosby.
“That’s just a heck of a play Crosby made,” Wilson said.
Including postseason play, this was only the fifth time in Crosby’s career that he has scored multiple power-play goals in one game.
The Maple Leafs produced their first sustained pressure of the evening late in the second period. Penguins defenseman Jay McKee blocked two shots on his shift to thwart the threat.
Toronto did add its second goal of the game only a minute into the third period. Niklas Hagman took advantage of a Fleury rebound and scored from the left dot.
Only 67 seconds later, Malkin picked off a pass and set up Jordan Staal, who buried a shot over Toskala’s glove. It was Malkin’s third assist of the night.
Crosby and Bylsma both said playing in Toronto gave the Penguins plenty of incentive.
“It’s always exciting to come to Canada and play,” Crosby said.
Added Bylsma, “We had a jump in the morning skate, and we had jump tonight. It was great to play in Toronto.”
Fleury improved to 4-0 with another solid performance.
The Penguins play Monday night in Ottawa.