Fast Start Leads To Win Over Penguins

Published December 9, 2017 at 9:47 PM

"Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs had the better record heading into tonight's game, it is always a litmus test when you play the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. The Leafs got off to fast start and were able to escape Pittsburgh with a regulation win.

The Maple Leafs have been troubled by slow starts for much of this season, but that was not the case in Pittsburgh. The Leafs grabbed a 1-0 lead on the second shift of the game and just 1:23 after the opening faceoff. Morgan Rielly walked the puck into the left circle then found Connor Brown in the slot where he ripped a shot past Tristan Jarry. Former Penguin Ron Hainsey had the secondary assist on Brown's ninth goal of the season.

The Leafs doubled their lead just 19 seconds later as they kept the pressure on. During a mad scramble in the crease, Mitch Marner sent a behind-the-back pass through the legs Chad Ruhwedel to James van Riemsdyk below the left dot and he lifted the puck over a sprawled out Jarry. Tyler Bozak was credited with the secondary assist on van Riemsdyk's team-high 14th goal of the season.

The first period dominance continued with Bozak's fifth goal of the year at the 12:55 mark. Bozak drove hard to the net grab a rebound off a shot from Marner and Jarry stopped the initial stuff attempt, but Bozak stayed with the puck and swept it home. Roman Polak picked up a point as well with the secondary assist.

Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in goal to start the second period for the Penguins.

The Penguins got on the board at 14:24 of the second period with Riley Sheahan's third goal of the season. Dominik Simon entered the zone on a 2-on-1 rush, aided by Morgan Rielly getting his stick ripped out of his hand with no call, and pass across to Sheahan who beat Frederik Andersen back to the near post with a wrist shot.

Evgeni Malkin made Leafs fans sweat by cutting the lead to 3-2 with a power play goal at 17:51. After Andersen made a couple of big saves down low, the puck found Malkin out in the left circle where he beat Andersen to the near post.

However, the Leafs had a very quick response as Bozak tipped a shot from Jake Gardiner past DeSmith just 22 seconds. After a quick review to see if Bozak's stick was above the crossbar when he touched it, the goal was upheld. Marner picked up his third point on the night with the secondary assist.

Sidney Crosby made things interesting with his 13th goal of the season at 17:12 of the third period. Crosby was left wide open at the side of the partially due to Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly colliding into each other which allowed Kris Letang to make the pass to his captain. Matthews was slow to get back to the bench, but did not miss a shift.

The Penguins had a huge boost after the Crosby goal and had plenty of pressure with the extra attacker. Olli Maata even rang the puck off the goal post with about 30 seconds left in the game.

The Leafs will have a quick turnaround as they will host the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow night, who beat up on the Canadiens in Montreal tonight.

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