PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 31: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save on a shot from the Toronto Maple Leafs as Joffrey Lupul #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on for the puck in the first period on January 31, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
As we said in the preview, the Toronto Maple Leafs are no strangers to seeing a lot of red lights go on during their games, both for and against. And even with a 4-1 lead in the third period, the Maple Leafs continued to play a very north-south, aggressive game as if the game was 1-1 or 2-1. Most NHL teams would have clamped down defensively, especially on the road, tried to trap or clog up the neutral zone and just choke out the clock. Toronto stayed full throttle and that (plus the sublime play of Marc-Andre Fleury) helped the Pittsburgh Penguins to come back and force overtime.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- Tyler Bozak totally got boned in the first period when he scored what should have been the game's opening goal on a clean shot. But the ref said that Joffrey Lupul impeded Fleury's chance for a save. Lupul was sort of in front of the net, but far from the crease and really Zbynek Michalek bumped into MAF without much pressure from Lupul. Refs are human too, but this was a terrible gaffe (albeit one that went in the Pens favor).
- It's not often you see a goalie give up four goals and be named the first star of the game, but such was the deserved case for Fleury tonight. He was under constant barrage and made a ton of beautiful saves, especially late. He never gave up on the game, even as some rubber was eluding him. Good on you, Flower.
- Rough outing for Michalek and partner Paul Martin. Martin got blown up with a thundering hit behind the net by Nazem Kadri, and the 7/4 pairing looked lost in their own zone. Blown coverages, sloppy positioning, failure to tie up sticks or take the body, bad gaps. You name it and the "shutdown" pair goofed it tonight. Hopefully their timing returns as they get back in the swing of the season coming off the all-star break.
- Steve Sullivan had some magic going in his hands and some jump in his skates tonight. The break likely did the oldest player on the roster some good, and it definitely showed.
- How about the James Neal/Evgeni Malkin combo joining up to send the game to OT with 6.6 (!!) seconds left. Best finish to a game since Bill Guerin scored with 0.4 seconds left against Boston a few years back.
- And then it's Geno time in the shootout. Malkin can't miss and Fleury can't be beaten it seems in the game deciding gimmick. About the only negative is Kris Letang appears to have lost his touch and confidence in what once was automatic for him.
The shootout-aided winning streak is up to eight games, but Toronto gets another crack at the Pens very soon in old Canada.