Penguins Halt Maple Leafs Winning Streak at Five Games
Pittsburgh (5) Toronto (3) Final
Saturday, February 17, 2018
The Maple Leafs entered Saturday searching for their sixth win in-a-row while Pittsburgh had their sights on an eleventh straight victory at home. As good as Toronto has been as of late, they would have their hands full with a potent Penguins lineup…
Pittsburgh took a blow to the back-end with the loss of Justin Schultz due to an undisclosed illness. Aside from that, the Pens were locked and loaded with three forwards sitting on the cusp of eclipsing 66-points apiece—Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel in particular.
Toronto came out on top with a 4-3 decision in their only previous meeting this season, however, that was back in early December.
Nazem Kadri entered with 15 points in his last 10 games since joining forces with Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau to form one of the league’s most dangerous tandems. The trio has proven able to step up in all situations and have undoubtedly earned their coaches trust.
Despite leaving Wednesday’s game with muscle spasms, Jake Gardiner was back in the Leafs lineup without missing a single game.
As the action got underway, Matt Murray absolutely robbed Zach Hyman of the game’s first goal with a sprawling save early in the first period—even prompting an early celebration from the glue-gun himself.
It didn’t take long for the Penguins to take advantage after that, turning a surrendered scoring chance into a 1-0 lead. Carl Hagelin finished off a tic-tac-toe play from Bryan Rust and notched his 7th goal of the season, Evgeni Malkin also recorded his team-high 67th point with a secondary assist.
The Leafs countered with two goals of their own to take a 2-1 advantage with their 65th and 66th first period goals of the season—which is good for second-most in the league.
Connor Brown found the equalizer with a little help from James van Riemsdyk, who made a pass from behind the net for Brown to one-time past an unsuspecting Murray. That same line went out several minutes later to help take the lead, as Tyler Bozak chipped in his 9th with an easy rebound behind Murray.
Less than two minutes later, Evgeni Malkin happily stunted Toronto’s momentum with a goal to tie the game at two-apiece. A failed clearing attempt saw Malkin intercept an aerial pass in the offensive zone before sniping his 33rd and recording his 900th career point to even the score once more.
As the second period rolled around, Sidney Crosby appeared to have the go-ahead goal, only for it to be called back due to a distinct kicking motion.
Moments later, a recent call-up from Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Zach Aston-Reese notched his third goal in three games to propel his team back into the lead. The 23-year-old converted on a juicy rebound from Frederik Andersen resulting from of Ian Cole’s initial point-shot.
Patrick Marleau followed up to knot-up the score with a power-play goal and make it a 3-3 game.
As he was being high-sticked in the face, Marleau managed to fool Murray with a fanned shot that barely trickled over the goal-line for his 20th goal of the season. Believe it or not, that just so happens to be the fifteenth twenty-goal campaign of his highly-respected career.
The conclusion would be left down to the final twenty minutes of regulation time, which happens to be a strong suit for the Penguins…
A long-range shot from Olli Maatta managed to sail past Andersen and into the net, giving Pittsburgh a leg-up early in the period.
After shutting out the Leafs for the remainder of the game, Maatta’s tally would stand as the game-winner. Bryan Rust added an insurance marker in contributing to a 5-3 final decision, effectively ending Toronto’s win streak at five games.
There was a scary moment towards the end of the game, when Olli Maatta slew-footed Zach Hyman, sending him ankles and head-first into the boards while racing for a potential icing. He did return and was lucky to escape without injury.
Toronto will travel to Detroit for the second leg of their back-to-back, hoping to get back in the win column against a divisional rival. The Red Wings are also coming off of a Saturday night game, after defeating the Nashville Predators 3-1 tonight. Puck drop is set at 7:00 p.m. EST at Little Caesar’s Arena.
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Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs