-Greetings from a cool/mild day in late December in Pittsburgh. It's been sunny and hovering in the low 40s for most of the day. It's been spectacular weather for late in the year.
-Other than the opening car chase scene from "Striking Distance," we don't think we've ever seen in the Armstrong Tunnels. We changed that today:
-Consol Energy Center:
-The moon peaking through the clouds over Mellon Arena:
-The ceiling and scoreboard:
-Craig Adams is on the cover of perhaps the most colorful IceTime ever:
-This is an update from a note we had earlier today. Vesa Toskala (5-7-2, 3.81 GAA, .869 SV%) and not Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start in net for Toronto. Toskala is 6-2-0 all-time against the Penguins with a 3.14 goals against average and .898 save percentage.
-Some sights from around the arena. As always, the Maple Leafs travel well. An Alexander Mogilny fan:
(-1 for the pink Tomas Kaberle jersey.)
-Phil Kessel with a jersey foul:
-Here's a good one. Brendan Shanahan Whalers:
-Holy Curtis Leschyshyn! A Quebec Nordiques touque!
(All of the deceased Adams Division teams are accounted for.)
-This is rare. A Randy Robitiaille jersey:
-Sean Collins Wheeling Nailers:
-Either this fan is really into the Penguins-Islanders rivalry our he's here to torment Maple Leafs fans who felt they "deserved" John Tavares:
-What's the only thing worse than an Eric Lindros Flyers jersey? An Eric Lindros Maple Leafs jersey:
-We've seen an outbreak of Ken Wregget jerseys:
-There isn't enough vulgarity in enough languages to convey our feelings on this:
-Some surprising news here as Tyler Kennedy is announced as a scratch. He hasn't done much since he came back from his injury earlier this month.
-Mark Eaton is the Penguins' other scratch.
-Toronto's scratches are Jeff Finger and Viktor Stalberg.
-Marc-Andre Fleury and Vesa Toskala are your starting goaltenders.
-Who else you going to trust with two national anthems other than Jeff Jimerson?
20:00: Sidney Crosby starts on a line with Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko. Martin Skoula and Kris Letang man the points.
19:27: With Kennedy benched, Mike Rupp moves to the third line with Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke.
18:03: "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
17:54: Evgeni Malkin, on with Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz, rips a wrister from the slot.It appears to get deflected and is fought off by Toskala.
17:35: Niklas Hagman tosses a wrister on net from the right wing. Fleury fights that off.
17:32: Alexei Ponikarovsky collects the rebound and distributes to Luke Schenn at the right point. Schenn chucks a wrister on net that beats Fleury. Fleury appeared to be screened by Jay McKee, Bill Guerin and Nikolai Kulemin. Either way, the Penguins were simply out-worked for that goal. Ponikarovsky and Gabovski each get assists. Maple Leafs 1-0.
16:35: After a brutal turnover in his own zone, Lee Stempniak takes the puck, moves in on the right wing and puts a wrister on net. Fleury makes the save. It wasn't a difficult shot to stop, but Crosby owes Fleury a beer.
14:59: And the Penguins get ir right back. Cooke blocks a wrister by Garnet Exelby at the left point in the Penguins' zone. Cooke then is off to the races as he hustles up the right wingcreating a two-on-one with Rupp against Schenn. Schenn takes away the pass. Cooke elects to shoot and lifts a beautiful wrister to the far side over Toskala's blocker side. What an effort by Cooke to even create that chance and what a finish. The goal is unassisted. The "Hey Song" is played. Maple Leafs1, Penguins 1.
13:18: Jason Blake flies up the right wing, cuts across the slot and throws a wrister low on net from the left faceoff circle. Fleury makes the save. Former Penguin Wayne Primeau stabs at the rebound. Play is halted as the officials appear to lose sight of the puck.
12:30: Maxime Talbot is on the fourth line with Craig Adams and Eric Godard.
12:10: Brooks Orpik tosses Jason Blake from the side into the boards face first. Blake is shaken up and is slow to recover. Orpik is called for cross checking. If Blake doesn't go down, that's not a call. Sergei Gonchar, Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal and Alex Goligoski take the ice.
11:46: Off a steal by Staal in the neutral zone, Cooke chips the puck up off the boards to kill time.
11:07: Dupuis intercepts a pass in the Penguins' zone. Staal backhand swats it out of the zone to kill some time.
10:41: Grabovski tries to wheel and deal out of the corner on the right wing in the Penguins' zone. He escapes a few checks but loses the puck. Kris Letang jumps in and backhands it down the ice.
10:13: Grabovski spins and slides a pass into the crease for Ponikarovsky hos is a step slow and the puck slides just beyond his stick. He had a goal there.
10:10: Orpik's penalty is killed. The Maple Leafs failed to generate anything notable that two minutes.
9:37: Ian White is nabbed for delay of game as he tossed the puck out of play. Kunitz, Crosby, Guerin, Gonchar and Malkin take the ice. During the commercial stoppage, the ninth anniversary of a significant even against these same Maple Leafs in this same building is noted:
9:23: Crosby controls the puck on the right half wall and zips a pass to Guerin in the slot. Guerin uncorks a one-timer that rings off the post.
8:36: Guerin caries the puck up the ice and hits Kunitz with a pass right at the Toronto blue line. Kunitz motors in and releases a wrister from the left faceoff cricle. Toskala fights it off.
7:37: White's penalty is killed. The Penguins had two really nice chances but little else.
6:27: Talbot chops a slapper from the left wing. Toskala boots that to the corner.
5:50ish: Jamal Mayers drops Jay McKee against the boards with a hip check. To label that a hip check is a bit inaccurate. McKee basically just kind of dodged the hit and fell over.
4:25: Malkin is back on the penalty wagon. He's nabbed for hooking Hagman. Cooke, Gonchar, Staal and Orpik take the ice.
3:41: Francois Beauchemin chucks a wrister from the left point at the net. Fleury hangs on to freeze play.
3:28: The Maple Leafs go to the net and get a dirty goal. Kaberle gets a pass at the left point. He smacks a one-timer into a cluster of bodies in the slot. It hits off Ponikarovsky and deflects Stempniak to the right of the cage. Stempniak gets a blade on the puck and actually whiffs a bit on the shot but still puts into the cage. That's an ugly, dirty goal the Penguins don't get nearly enough of on their power play. Ponikarovsky and Kaberle get assists. Maple Leafs, 2-1.
2:19: Kessel moves up the left wing, crosses into the slot challenging Orpik one-on-one and rips a heavy wrister which Fleury boots away.
1:35: Guerin takes a pass from Malkin on the right wing and tosses a wrister at the cage. Toskala gloves it.
0:21: Dupuis steals a puck in the defensive zone and tries to push it up ice. Schenn makes a nice poke check and knocks Dupuis to the ice with a nice shoulder check. Just an all-around great play by Schenn.
0:18: Stempknai enters the offensive zone on the left wing and lifts a wrister to the far side. Fleury eats it up.
0:00: End of period. Maple Leafs 2, Penguins 1.
-It's pretty easy to figure what happened that period. The Maple Leafs just outworked the Penguins. They hustled more, attacked the zone more and were just more aggressive around the net.
-We're not sure if was a three-day layoff or if the Penguins just aren't up to play a bad Toronto team, but they need to wake up a bit.
-Considering the Maple Leafs are playing their second game in as many nights and they're playing theyr backup goaltender, who has been awful this season, the Penguins should not be losing to this team.
-We've liked Dupuis' defensive play.
-The Maple Leafs have a 9-4 lead in shots.
-Stempniak leads the game with three shots.
-No one else has more than one.
-Beauchemin leads the game with 8:54 of ice time.
-Gonchar leads the Penguins with 8:39.
-The Penguins have a 9-8 edge in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Staal is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Grabovski is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
-They'll sell beer here to anyone:
18:09: The Maple Leafs mishandle the puck at their own blue line and it comes right to Guerin who gets set loose on a breakaway. He glides in on net and shoots five hole and is denied by Toskala who is able to hold it out.
17:27: Cooke and Grabovski race after a puck behind the Toronto net. Grabovski takes a spill and is a little shaken up.
17:00: Attendance is announced at 17,132, a complete standing room only sellout. It is the team's 139 consecutive sell out.
16:01: Despite traffic, Fleury fights off a wrister by Blake from the left wing.
14:59: Malkin roars up the left wing, cuts towards the net behind Beauchemin and attempts to dish a pass to the slot. The puck hits off the skate of White and ricochets juuuuust wide of the far post. As that happens, Beauchemin hits Malkin into the net and and dislodges it.
14:04: Staal swoops behind the cage from the left wing, emerges on the other side and tries to tuck a wraparound by Toskala. Toskal holds it out despite a few jabs by Cooke who raise his hands for some reason. Was he hoping the officials would just call a goal since his hands were up?
13:50: The great Markint Skoula keeps a puck in the offensive zone at the top of the slot and dishes it to Dupuis off the right half wall. Dupuis uncorks a one-timer that Toskala fights off.
12:54: Matt Stajan is nabbed for hooking Kunitz. Malkin, Kunitz, GOnchar, Crosby and Guerin take the ice.
12:12: How did that go in!?! Crosby controls the puck on the rileft wing, coasts across the slot with no contact and gets Toskala to commit and flop to the ice. From there, Crosby is able to sneak the puck under Toskala's right leg and bank it off his left leg andinto the net. That was a marvelous effort, but where was Toronto's defense? Gonchar and Guerin get the assists. The power play racks up another score against a poor team with a backup goaltender. The "Hey Song" is never poor. Maple Leafs 2, Penguins 2.
8:51: "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
8:32: Guerin dishes a pass to Kunitz in the left faceoff circle. Kunitz releases a low wrister which Toskala gloves.
8:30: Off a faceoff wing, Malkin sneaks behind Mayers and rips a wrister that actually gets by Toskala but hits off the far post.
6:30: We neglected to mention that Jordan Staal is not playing with a visor.
4:53: Who else but Jason Blake? Stempniak and Blake race up the right wing on a give and go. Stempniak dishes to Blake and from the slot, Blake fires an ordinary wrister that clunks through Fleury's five hole and into the cage. That was a brutal goal to give up and Fleury knows it. He's visibly upset with himself. That's like Blake's 293rd career goal against the Penguins. We thnk Stempniak and White get assists. Maple Leafs 3-2.
3:24: Crosby abuses Schenn again (Schenn was the player Crosby skated by on his power play goal) and moves up the left wing. He gets by the Toronto defenseman with a fancy move and sneaks a wrister low. Toskala holds it out.
2:26: Malkin forces a turnover in Toronto's slot. Guerin gets the puck in the corner on the right wing and dishes it back to Malkin who stabs at the puck a few times before Toskala freezes it. Heck of an effort by Malkin.
1:16: Crosby commits his second sloppy turnover in his own zone and he blindly fires a pass to Grabovski. Thankfruly for the Penguins, Grabovski wasn't ready for it and the pucks escapes the zone.
0:09: Fleury fights off a one-timer by Kulemin from the left point.
0:00: End of period. Maple Leafs 3, Penguins 2.
-The Penguins picked things up a bit there but it still wasn't enough to match the Maple Leafs. THey were again outworked that period.
-That said, a bad goal against a player who always has success against the Penguins is the difference.
-Things really got choppy and even sloppy that period. There's not a ton of flow to this game.
-Malkin was strong that period. He was quite strong in the offensive zone and really pressed the issue near the net. We'll be shocked if he doesn't end up with a goal before this night over.
-It would be a stretch to say either goaltender has been tested tonight.
-The Penguins have a 17-16 edge in shots.
-Guerin leads the game with four shots.
-Stempniak and Blake each lead the Maple Leafs with three.
-Beauchemin leads the game with 17:56 of ice time.
-Gonchar leads the Penguins with 15:58.
-The Penguins control faceoffs 24-12 (67 percent).
-Malkin is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Grabovski is 5 for 9 (56 percent).
-Who else but Jay McKee would lead the game with three blocked shots?
-Schenn leads the Maple Leafs with two.
19:10: "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
18:46: Kaberle picks up a loose puck at the left point and cranks a "one-timer" on net which gets deflected on its way. Fleury boots it away with his left leg.
18:41: Kunitz is nabbed for hooking Kulemin.Staal, Cooke, Orpik and GOnchar take th eice.
18:23: White cranks a one-timer from the left half wall. Fleury eats it up.
18:09: Goligosk kneels down and blocks a wrister by Kessel in the left faceoff circle.
16:41: Kunitz's penalty is killed. The Penguins were rather effective that two minutes.
16:03: Malkin appears to get away with a bit of a trip on Mayers in the Toronto zone.
15:35: "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
14:41: We've had our third "LET'S GO PENS!" chant of the period without any sort of prompting from the scoreboard.
14:06: Kulemin coasts up the right wing and zips a pass into the slot to Stajan who is wide open. Stajan taps the puck on net but is denied rather bluntly by Fleury's right leg. Huge save. Fans shower the goaltender with "FLERRRR-EEEE! FLERRR-EEEE!" chants.
13:16: Ponikarovsky cuts to the slot from the left wing and chops a backhander on net. Fleury make save. A few bodies clear out of the crease and Ponikarovsky is alone with the rebound and Fleury. He snaps off a wrister which Fleury boots out with a "thud." Another huge save.
13:08: Malkin tries to cut inside White but gets tripped up. No call.
12:13: Guerin cranks a one-timer from the right faceoff circle that gets deflected wide.
11:15: Kulemin moves off the right wing, goes to the slot and rips a rising wrister which is snagged by Fleury. That's was yet another big save. Fleury's lifted his team this period.
10:28: THe Penguins team Malkin with Crosby and Talbot. Off a faceoff win, Malkin forces a pass into the slot. Talbot is there and chops at it but can't get a clean shot off.
10:19: Kessel pumps a wrister on net from the right faceoff circle. Fleury gloves that with ease.
9:17: On a line with Kunitz and Guerin, Staal moves towards the net from the slot and tries to sneak a backhander by Toskala but loses the puck.
8:56: Gonchar smacks a one-timer from the right point. Toskala knocks it dead and covers to freeze play.
7:46: Play is halted as Cooke hits Hagman high along the boards. Hagman is shaken up a bit. Cooke actually elbowed him in the back of the head and he fell into the boards. What a stupid penalty. Cooke is sent off. Staal, Adams, Goligoski and McKee take the ice. The Penguins obviously need a kill here badly.
7:28: Staal forces the puck up the right wing and kills some time.
7:01: Beauchemen cranks a one-timer from the top of the slot that gets deflected wide and ricochets out of play.
6:01: Stempniak gets knocked over by Adams in the right faceoff circle. Orpik grabs the puck and clunks it off the boards and out of danger.
5:43: As the Cooke penalty expires, Blake flies up the left wing, swoops behind the net and attempts a wraparound. FLeury stretches out and holds the puck out. Hagman sneaks in and tries to jam it in. No dice.A big scrum ensues and McKee goes nuts on Hagman. Helmets and gloves come flying off. Officials manage to pull the offending parties apart. Somehow no penalties are doled out. Big, big kill by the Penguins.
5:25: Malkin steals a puck off Beauchemin in the neutral zone, moves up the right wing, cuts inside Beauchemin and whips a wrister on net. Toskala hangs on for the save.
4:46: Crosby makes a nice backcheck and steals the puck in the neutral zone. He then zips a cross ice pass to Rupp on the left wing. Rupp tees up and blasts a slapper far and wide.. Heck of an effort by Crosby.
2:31: Stajan chops a puck up ice off the boards and into the Penguins' zone. Skoula touches up for ice.ing.
2:15: We said Malkin would get a goal. We were wrong. he did something better. Malkin edges off Kaberle behind the net for the puck, He moves along the boards fighting off Stajan and from the right wing, he snaps off a feed to Rupp on the back door. Rupp just has to have is stick in the right place. He does and he taps it behind Toskala to tie this game. What an amazing effort by Malkin to create that. He was bound to get something with the way he's played from the second period on. Malkin and GOligoski get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Maple Leafs 3, Penguins 3.
1:22: And that didn't last long. Beauchemin slides a cross ice pass to White at the right point. White winds up and cranks a slapper that beats Fleury to the far side over his blocker cleanly. The puck hits off the netting and hops right out. There was some speed on that shot. The Penguins seemed to let up after the Rupp goal. Beauchemin and Stempniak get assists. Maple Leafs 4-3.
0:58: Fleury is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:40: Guerin dishes a pass to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz chops at it but doesn't get a clena shot off.
0:02: After Malkin has a shot from the left faceoff circle blocked, Kessel zips a shot down ice towards the empty cage but misses. Goligoski races back to touch up for icing. Dan Bylsma calls a time out to organize his team.
0:00: Crosby wins the faceoff. Gonchar gets the puck and snaps off a wrister whcih Ponikarovsky flops down to block. End of game. Maple Leafs 4, Penguins 3.
-That was sloppy. The Penguins played a very incomplete game and got beaten by a hugrier squad. The Maple Leafs don't have half the talent the Penguins do, but they simply outworked the Penguins throughout the course of the entire game and pulled out an impressive road win.
-What might be most disappointing about this loss is the fact that the Maple Leafs played last night in overtime and still gutted out a win. This team was ripe for the picking. Either the Penguins were slow off a few days off or they weren't up for the lowly Maple Leafs. Either way, it's inexcusable.
-Give the Maple Leafs credit, they stuck to their game, they managed to keep play in the Penguins' end of the ice quite a bit and really didn't allow the Penguins wilth all their skill to gain the offensive zone on a consistent basis.
-Vesa Toskala was sharp tonight. He's been really inconsistent most of the season and he just found away to be in the right place for most of the Penguins' shots.
-Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't sharp. The goal scored by Jason Blake was inexcusable.
-After losses like this, provided everyone is healthy, the Penguins seem to find way to immediately refocus and put together better efforts. They better with a road game in Buffalo on Tuesday next.
-One has to wonder if Tyler Kennedy would've provided some much needed energy tonight.
-Malkin played much better than his stats would indicate. From the second period on, he dominated play just about anytime he took the ice.
-The Maple Leafs ended up with a 27-24 lead in shots.
-Blake led the game with five.
-Guerin led the Penguins with four.
-Francois Beauchemin led the game with 29:12 of ice time.
-Crosby led the Penguins with 24:25.
-The Penguins dominated faceoffs, 36-22 (62 percent).
-Malkin was 5 for 6 (81 percent).
-Crosby was 18 for 28 (64 percent).
-Grabovski was 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-Goligoski led the game with four blocked shots.
-Schenn, Komisarek, Primeau, Beauchemin, Ponikarovsky and Grabovski each had two for Tortonto.
-Blake now has 48 points (25 goals, 23 assists) in 48 career games against the Penguins.