Playing Saturday night in Toronto is a highlight moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the ones that put on the show, jumping out early and never looking back.
Patric Hornqvist scored his second goal in as many games as a Penguin 6:44 into the first, then one minute later, Sidney Crosby scored on the power play to get Pittsburgh out to the races.Later in the first on a 5on3 PP, Chris Kunitz deflected a Crosby pass past Jonathan Bernier to make it 3-0.
The Maple Leafs looked like they barely knew what hit them.
Joffrey Lupul scored on a PP on their own to make it 3-1, but Toronto would get no closer. Evgeni Malkin would bury a third power play goal for Pittsburgh later in the second and then Brandon Sutter scored his second backhand goal of the season in the third. Not bad for the second game of the year.
Stuart Percy made a really nice pass as the tail end of a Toronto PP to Tyler Bozak who fired a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury to salvage the final score a little, but that was pretty much it.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- Hornqvist ended the night with 9 shots on goal. That's a career high for him. He scored a goal and quite easily could have had another with the chances he was given with passes from the Pens skill players. It's very early, but Hornqvist is fitting the team like a glove and playing well.
- A big lead meant that coach Mike Johnston could back off the big boys. Crosby played the most TOI of any forward last year, he ended the night with just 16:38 and only 11:30 at even. To put in perspective, at the bottom end Craig Adams and Zach Sill got 8:37 and 9:42, respectively. Nice time management by Johnston and staff.
- Another poor night on paper for the Pens PK, killing only 3 of 5 times, but they did only give up 2 goals in 5:05 total time short-handed. They came close to surviving both times, but couldn't quite do it.
- The power play, on the other hand, carried the day. The top unit produced 3 goals and looked unstoppable doing so. Knowing just that last sentence and nothing else about the game, you would probably guess they won the game. And you would be right, you shrewd observer you.
- As expected in a power play fest, the top 6 forwards and top 4 defensemen combined for the 5 goals and 9 assists on the night. The bottom 6 forwards and the 3rd pair went 0-0-0 in the boxcar category.
- Pascal Dupuis had 6 shots on goal on the night. Brandon Sutter with 3. Beneficiaries of playing with Malkin or just against a team in Toronto that bleeds shots against? The top line is clicking and Sutter/Dupuis aren't exactly a picture perfect fit for Malkin....But even out of shape the big guy has 4 points in 2 games and once won a scoring title with Ruslan Fedotenko, an aged Petr Sykora and Max Talbot as linemates. He's made chicken salad out of worse ingredients before, especially if Dupuis and Sutter can keep up their end of the bargain like they have so far.
- Minor defensive shift from last game, with Paul Martin joining Christian Ehrhoff and Kris Letang paired with Olli Maatta. The Martin/Ehrhoff pair seemed to have more hiccups and communication issues (but they were still effective, overall). And, quietly, the Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres pair was solid. The Pens didn't give up a goal at even strength, which is a positive for all the defensemen.
- Only Marcel Goc (6 for 11) won more faceoffs than he lost for the Pens regular centers. But, luckily Crosby (47%), Sutter (45%) and Nick Spaling (50%) weren't all that bad.
Now, we get a break in the schedule, with Pittsburgh inactive until Thursday. It's a shame, with 11 goals scored in the first two games, this team is on a roll and would seem to benefit from having more games sooner while still on a roll.
That said, they'll get some rest and more instruction time from the coaching staff looking to fine tune the points of their game.