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Penguins vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Pittsburgh blows lead and falls in Toronto

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After going up 2-0, the Pens end up losing 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Lineups

The Penguins are the same as last night, with the exception of getting Matt Murray back in the crease.

First period

Toronto’s Connor Brown goes to the box for high-sticking Kris Letang and whaddya know, the Pens top power play scores for seemingly the first time since the 6th grade picnic when Letang feeds a puck over to Sidney Crosby for a one-timer past Maple Leafs goalie Garret Sparks.

Just 3:19 later, Teddy Blueger scores for the second game in a row! Pretty good way to stay in the show, kid. 2-0 Pens.

The Pens are only downhill from here though. Auston Matthews slashes the lead in half by collecting a rebound and nicely turning his hands over to push the puck into the net. 2-1 game.

Marcus Pettersson goes to the box for high sticking but the Pens’ PK takes care of the job.

Shots end up 13-13 through 20 minutes of play.

Second period

The Leafs tie the game mid-way through the period when Patrick Marleau beats Crosby clean on a faceoff in the Pens’ zone. The puck goes d-to-d and Travis Dermott rips a shot from far out that eludes Murray through the traffic in front. 2-2

Before the period is out, Toronto takes the lead with a really nice play by Zach Hyman collecting the puck and flipping it into the net from out in front.

A pretty lackluster period for Pittsburgh, shots are 11-8 Toronto in the second and 24-21 TOR overall.

Third period

Jack Johnson hit a guy. Cool.

Unfortunately once again Johnson spent a lot of time running around in his defensive zone without the puck. He was on ice for 12 Corsi Events for and 28 Corsi Against per Natural Stat Trick, second worst on the team by CF% and Relative on the team, behind his partner Pettersson.

The Pens put on a decent enough push, but can’t score. In fact, no one does. Shots end up 9-9 in the period.

Some Thoughts

  • With Evgeni Malkin out, Sidney Crosby on the power play moves to the right wall a little higher up. I like that look, as too often the PP has morphed into Letang, Malkin and Phil Kessel passing around the perimeter with Crosby and Patric Hornqvist down low. That’s all well and good at times, but ideally you want #87 handling the puck more and using his vision, shot and playmaking ability more than when he is stationed low and relying on deflections, rebounds and scrambles.
  • Speaking of, the Games Without a SH Goal Against moves up to: 3
  • The difference was a bad second period, and the team knows it. Here’s the telling Sullivan quote after the game: “We were good in the first. We were good in the third. We pushed hard in the third. We had some chances. For me, the difference was the second. We needed more pushback.”
  • Pettersson had a difficult game. As mentioned above, he was the worst Corsi player on the team. He also took two minor penalties. At this point there’s no other recourse but to play him but at this point he’s not really doing much to deserve staying in the lineup based on his play. Having to prop up a poor partner surely isn’t helping but that’s a handicap the team seems willing to continue by having Johnson in the lineup every night.
  • One night after scoring two goals, Bryan Rust only mustered one shot on goal.
  • Who led the team with five shots on goal? Newcomer Nick Bjugstad.
  • In all, a tip of the cap to Toronto. They fell down 2-0 and usually falling behind for them is a kiss of death this season as we detailed in the game preview. But the Leafs kept plugging along and turned the game in the second period.

It’s a rare two day break for the Pens, they’re off until hosting Carolina on Tuesday night. Hopefully Malkin heals up and it gives a chance for Bjugstad and Jared McCann a chance to get more acclimated with their new team.