Welcome back from illness, Evgeni Malkin! Matt Murray is back in the goal as the rotation continues.
Pretty quiet period with no scoring. Denis Malgin takes a penalty towards the end of the frame but the Pens’ streak of scoring against the Maple Leafs’ PK comes to an end.
Shots in the first are 14-10 Pittsburgh.
Toronto gets on the board first when John Tavares wins a faceoff against Sidney Crosby and the puck gets over the Jake Muzzin at the point. With plenty of traffic, Muzzin hammers a shot that flies by Murray and into the net. 1-0 TOR.
Then, penalty trouble hits. Marcus Pettersson gets ticketed for holding, sending Toronto to their first power play of the game. Just seven seconds into that PP, Brandon Tanev clears the puck over the glass and it’s another 5v3 situation for TOR. This time for 1:53. Unlike last game, they cash in. Tavares wins another faceoff, this time against Teddy Blueger. Auston Matthews kicks the puck over to William Nylander who has all the time and space in the world to pick a spot on Murray. He chooses five-hole and zips a shot in. 2-0.
The hits unfortunately keep on coming. Juuso Riikola totally forgets that Kasperi Kapanen skates behind him. That isn’t ideal! Nice outlet pass from Muzzin to hit Kapanen in stride for a clear breakaway, he stickhandles and snaps a shot past Murray to make it 3-0.
And in 5:19 the score goes from 0-0 to 3-0. Some bad circumstance and breaks, but sometimes it goes like that. Tough to pile on Murray too much, especially on the second and third goals it seemed like a matter of time with a 5v3 for 1:53 and a clean breakaway. Adds up quick.
The Pens seem to stabilize a bit, and shots in in the period are 10-8 Toronto, which is a nice comeback since it was 7-1 TOR at one point. Patric Hornqvist looks like he’s trying to get some emotion going by finishing a check, Kapanen wants to fight him but has to settle for Jared McCann instead.
The Pens hadn’t shown a lot of signs of life and it wouldn’t be there at the beginning of the last period either. Another d-zone clean faceoff loss (this time by Malkin) leads to Murray make a save on a shot from distance and leaving a rebound. Justin Schultz doesn’t tie up the stick so Zach Hyman can easily chop it in. 4-0.
Chad Ruhwedel is forced to hold a Leaf in front of the net, so that’s another power play. The Pens kill it off but shortly there-after Dominik Kahun is felled by a puck hitting him and writhes on the ice in a lot of pain. Hate to see that after he just got back from injury. He eventually is helped from the ice putting no weight on his left leg, appearing to get a puck to the knee area, perhaps with no padding when he bent his leg.
The game ends meekly for Pittsburgh. Did it ever begin?
A bad 5:19. With their skill, Toronto racked up three quick goals in a 5:19 stretch during the second period. It was a confluence of simple mistakes by the Pens and nice job taking advantage by the Leafs. Can’t lose faceoffs clean and not cover points. Can’t keep going down to 3v5 by clearing the puck when there’s time to shoot it low (and on the forehand!). Can’t let players get behind the defense. It happens sometimes but it’s tough.
The Pens’ offense dried up. Just 1 SOG in the first 12 minutes of the second period. That was during that bad 5:19. Pittsburgh just ended up slumping away in the game’s key moments, while Toronto stood out. Only 2 SOG in the whole third period when a push was needed. It never came. Just a poor offensive night.
It just meant more. After laying an egg on Tuesday, this game was a big time challenge to Toronto. It got talked up as a super important, perhaps season defining type of game, as illustrated here-
Gonna learn a ton about the Leafs tonight. Not the win or the loss so much, but are they able to bounce back against a very good team at a pivotal point in the season? Can they put the Pens on their heels? Is there pushback from within? Turning point night coming up.— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) February 20, 2020
So, maybe it’s not a surprise that Toronto was playing like their season was on the line. The Pens were playing a bit more lax.
Well, enough of that. Two afternoon games, Buffalo at home and then the Caps on Sunday in what should be a first place battle.