Penguins Crumble in the Third, Lose to Leafs

The Pittsburgh Penguins winning streak ended at 3 games tonight as they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Mellon Arena by a score of 5-2.  The game was tied at the end of two and could have gon eeither way, but the Penguins came into the third period and made several costly mistakes that quickly led to turnovers.  The Leafs converted on nearly every chance offered up by the Penguins in the third, reversing their third period fate of late.  It was a disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable game. 

Despite being outshot 10-6 in the first period, the Pittsburgh Penguins came out and got on the scoreboard first on an even strength goal by Sidney Crosby at 16:20.  With the Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala butterflied in the paint, Crosby jammed away at a loose puck by the goalies left pad that finally found its way into the net to give the Penguins the 1-0 lead.  Mark Recchi and Evgeni Malkin assisted on the goal.  Both the Pens and Leafs went 0 for 1 on the powerplay in the first. 

In the second period, the Penguins outshot the Leafs 13-8, but went 0 for 2 on the powerplay and gave up a goal midway through the period allowing the Leafs to tie the game at 1-1.  At 10:18, Alexander Steen blew a screened shot past Fleury that he really had no chance to stop.  Despite the goal, Marc-Andre Fleury was particularly impressive through two periods in net, including a couple of amazing saves that left me thinking that he had shaken his earlier inconsistency for good.  That was about to change, however.  Late in the second period, Maxime Talbot lost his footing as he raced to the end boards in an attempt to avoid an icing call and went face first into the dasher board.  After laying on the ice for a minute, he walked to the dressing room under his own power and seemed to be ok.  He came out of the locker room at the beginning of the third period with the team, but left the ice for good almost immediately and before the puck dropped.  No further information is available at this time. 

Less than two minutes into the third, Jiri Tlusty (who was called-up to the big time yesterday) scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.   The 13th overall 2006 draft pick went on to score a second goal just 35 seconds later to give the Leafs the 3-1 advantage at 2:20.  “The NHL was my dream, now I’ve played in my first game and in my first game I scored my first two goals,” said the 19-year-old Czech. “It’s great.”  Not so great for Pittsbugh or Marc-Andre Fleury who seemed rattled by the second Tlusty goal.  The Penguins had plenty of time to work with to post a comeback, but instead they collapsed in their own zone and made several mistakes that allowed the leafs to bury 2 more rapid succession goals at the mid-point of the period to put the Leafs up 5-1.  The first came at 10:02 on a powerplay goal by Tomas Kaberle while Evgeni Malkin sat in the box on a hooking call.  The second came 33 seconds later by Boyd Devereaux.  On both goals, Penguins’ bad turnovers led to a quick reversal of fate for goaltender Fleury, who seemed hogtied as the Leafs put the puck in the net.  The Penguins got a late opportunity with a 32 second 5-on-3 power play with just over 5 minutes to play.  They took advantage of the chance and quickly converted on the 5-on-3 powerplay off from a Sergei Gonchar shot, making their 9th consecutive game in which they have scored on the power play.  Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby assisted on the goal, and set up the Pens for an additional minute plus of 5-on-4 man advantage play.  The Penguins, however, seemed to stop competing at this point as if they knew the game’s fate was already decided, and they squandered the remaining powerplay time, as well as an additional powerplay at 17:16.  Perhaps most disappointing was the apparent lack of desperation late in the game when they were handed a couple of opportunities to close the gap.  Instead, they lackadaisically moved the puck, passed it around too much on the powerplay and neglected to shoot the puck.  The Penguins were outshot 9-6 in the third despite 3 powerplays, and were 1 for 3 on the man advantage.

Sidney Crosby picked up 2 points (1G, 1A) as did Evgeni Malkin (2A).  “We made some mistakes, and every mistake we made was in our net,” Crosby said.  Fleury, who had saved 66 of 67 shots in his last outings, gave up 5 goals on 27 shots tonight in an inconsitent performance. The Penguins finished with 25 shots on goal.  “We weren’t concentrating when we came out (in the third) and we gave them chances pretty much and they capitalized on it,” Gonchar said. “I was really surprised,” said Penguins Coach Michel Therrien, “We didn’t compete. We didn’t execute. When you don’t executive, you create turnovers.”

The Penguins will look to rebound from tonight’s loss when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Mellon Arena on Saturday night. 

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