TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 2: Matt Niskanen #2 and Ben Lovejoy #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate Niskanen's goal during game action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre March 2, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Leafs Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
Matt Niskanen finally registered his first point as a Penguin on a solid shot from the point that slipped past Toronto's James Reimer early in the first. He later added a sweet break-out assist to Chris Conner early in the second to give the Pens a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately Pittsburgh's scoring ended there, and it was only a matter of time before Mikhail Grabovski shot the Pens down in OT by the final of 3-2.
Also worth mentioning for Niskanen, outside of the aforementioned offensive contributions, is his defensive side. Tonight he led the Pens with six hits and also practiced what Pierre McGuire would dub "an active stick" in the Penguins' own zone. A few Toronto attacks were spoiled courtesy of Niskanen and two shots failed to even get through thanks to his willingness to throw himself in front of the puck. Couldn't have asked for a better game from a d-man.
As for the rest of the team, you could definitely ask for some better contributions. I liked the hustle from Matt Cooke even if he didn't register a shot on goal. The same pat on the back applies to Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, two guys who played over 20 minutes and focused on shutting down the Leafs, which is to say they did their jobs.
The final goal that iced this in overtime was a pretty nifty play. On one hand it's hard to figure out how Grabovski could even get that wide open in front of the net. But when you look back on it and see two guys double up on Dion Phaneuf as he carried the puck in, you can more or less see how the play orchestrated itself into a prime scoring opportunity. No reason to crash both guys on a d-man carrying the puck in like that. But in doing so, it opened up the other side of the ice and produced a solid exhibition of on-mark passing and an even stronger finish. Such is the life, I suppose.
Again, Pens get a point, even if it does ultimately translate to improving four points in the standings over the last four games. Tonight's loss marks the Pens' seventh game that ended in overtime, dropping their OT record to 3-4. If you combine that with the team's 6-3 shootout record, the Pens are 9-7 in post-regulation play.
Next game is Friday against the Devils.