Penguins Vs. Maple Leafs Recap: Defense Gets Marc-Andre Fleury In Trouble

Here's a recap of Wednesday night's game by Jimmy Rixner.

What Went Right:

-Getting dirty.  Matt Cooke (two assists) and Tyler Kennedy (one assist) did well to dig pucks out from deep behind the net, then make accurate passes to get it to the net. Eric Tangradi didn't show up on the scoreboard but he had several chances that he created through hard work. Chris Kunitz battled hard all night in front of the goal and was rewarded with a tip in.

-Winning possession battle.  For the last two periods the Pens took the play to Toronto and out-shot their opposition, 20-7. It wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, but Pittsburgh did show some great signs of the play they want to have. The goals, you would hope, will come.

-No soft goals. Four goals on 14 shots looks bad. It's a putrid .714 save percentage for Marc-Andre Fleury. But none of the goals could be realistically pinned on him. It was the result of tips, faceoffs lost and defensive breakdowns. Any goalie in the league would give up at least three (and probably all four) of the shots that got by Fleury. He takes a lot of blame from the fans, and that might not change after tonight, but it is not deserved. Fleury has given up terrible goals, but tonight it's impossible to lay any blame on him. 

What Went Wrong:

-Attention to detail.  Twice the Pens lost clean draws in their defensive zone, twice they didn't have great coverage, and, unsurprisingly, twice the puck ended up in their net. For much of the night, Pittsburgh was the dominant team. But the Pens didn't have enough focus.

-Rag-tag defense. Recent call-up Andrew Hutchinson saw the first goal come off his misplay of the puck and would end up a -2. Deryk Engelland, though valiant in his fight, would be a -1 in just 10:52 played. These guys wouldn't be in the lineup if everyone were healthy. But in the NHL that's not the case. The Pens tried to give big minutes to Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin and Kris Letang, but the others have to pull their weight when they go over the boards.

VERDICT:

This was a tough pill to swallow for the Pens. They played well, but they'll take no points away from this one. The Maple Leafs, now 3-0-0, played confidently and got some great saves from Jonas Gustavsson when they needed them the most. If you look at total shots attempted it was Pittsburgh 60, Toronto 32. But the scoreboard was 3-4, and that's all that matters.

INJURY REPORT:

Max Talbot had to leave the game in the second period after taking a shot, but he returned shortly thereafter. Talbot's status going forward is unknown, but seemingly he should be alright.

Brooks Orpik has a groin injury and is probably out for the foreseeable future, given his past history of groin troubles (had sports hernia surgery this past summer).

Zbynek Michalek has a shoulder injury, the significance still unknown, but he could be on the shelf for an extended period of time given he was spotted in a sling earlier today. Michalek is meeting with physicians to see what is required and we all wait for the exact prognosis.

Jordan Staal is still out indefinitely via a foot infection. Staal skated for 20 minutes before practice Wednesday, an encouraging sign, but due to his IR status, he can't return to the lineup before November 3. It appears his conditioning and health will keep him out longer than that anyway.

Arron Asham is out with a shoulder injury.

GAME SUMMARY:

First period:

With defensive regulars Zbynek Michalek and Brooks Orpik out of the lineup, the Pittsburgh Penguins got hemmed in their own end for most of the first period early on in the game. 

About five minutes into the game, new call-up Andrew Hutchinson could not corral a puck that came to him, and it ended up with the Leafs' Mike Brown. Brown passed it back to the point for Luke Schenn, who shot it quickly to goal.  Hutchinson was out of position and the Pens couldn't recover in time. Tough guy Colton Orr (who had 8 goals in 329 NHL games) got a great tip on Schenn's shot and beat a helpless Marc-Andre Fleury for the opening goal.

The Penguins would strike next on the power play. After rookie Eric Tangradi got high-sticked to draw a four-minute penalty, the power play stammered through the first part before Evgeni Malkin launched a shot on net that forward Chris Kunitz tipped by goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. 1-1 game.

Late in the period Tyler Kennedy's hard work creating a turnover down low would pay off when Matt Cooke made a great pass from behind the net the Maxime Talbot got a stick on from right in front to give the Pens the lead.

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After the first:

Score: Pittsburgh 2 - 1 Toronto

Shots: 5 -7

Scoring: TOR: Orr 1 (Schenn, Brown )

PIT: Kuntiz 1 (Malkin, Goligoski)

PIT: Talbot 1 (Cooke, Kennedy)

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Second period:

Straight off a Cooke penalty, Toronto won a draw and passed it around, and Tomas Kaberle made a terrific cross-ice pass to Clarke MacArthur who made no mistake burying it up top by Fleury. Again, having three of the top four penalty killers out of the lineup hurt the Pens here, and once Craig Adams cleanly lost the faceoff, it was basically academic.

Two minutes later, Toronto would strike again to take the lead for good. "The Great" Mike Zigomanis cleanly won a draw from Sidney Crosby, Schenn passed the puck over to Francois Beacuchemin, who drilled a shot by Fleury who was screened out effectively by the Leafs. 3-2 Leafs.

Potential turning point:

Next shift after this fight, defenseman Deryk Engelland got into a fight against the enforcer Orr. Both exchanged punches but it was Engelland who connected with a heavy shot that dropped Orr. The crowd was fired up, the team was fired up.

But the Leafs scored again when Mikhail Grabovski ended up collecting the puck behind the net and whipped a pass out that Clarke MacArthur caught Fleury on his short-side. Again, no blame to the goalie here. 4-2 Leafs.

Back-breaker:

Evgeni Malkin drew a penalty shot when Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf took him down on a breakaway with 1:57 left in the game. Penalty shots are not Malkin's forte, and he skated in slow and looked for a forehand shot, but it went wide. It was a huge missed opportunity for the Pens ... but wait...

Before the period was over, defenseman Ben Lovejoy collected a puck and sent a strong pass over to Crosby. Crosby cut in and instantly went backhand for a goal on Gustavsson. 4-3 Toronto heading into the intermission, but Pittsburgh was feeling good about its chances.

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After the second:

Score: Pittsburgh 3 - 4 Toronto

Shots: 16-12

Scoring: TOR: MacArthur 3 (Kaberle, Phaneuf)

TOR: Beauchemin 1 (Schenn, Zigomanis)

TOR: MacArthur 4 (Grabovski, Kulemin)

PIT: Crosby 1 (Lovejoy, Cooke)

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Third period:

The Leafs sat back on defense, content to clog up the middle of the ice and hang on to what they had established.  The Pens out-shot them 9-2 in the third and though they pushed and pushed, they just couldn't get the puck by Gustavsson. Game over.

Scoring: none

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FINAL STATS:

Pittsburgh 3 - 4 Toronto

Shots 25 -14

Goaltenders:

PIT: Fleury - 10 saves on 14 shots

TOR: Gustavsson- 22 saves on 25 shots

Three Stars:

3. PIT: LW - Matt Cooke (0g, 2a) - Don't check your eyes, Cooke now has more points on the season (3) than Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin (both with 2). Two assists tonight for the Cookie Monster.

2. TOR: D- Luke Schenn (0g, 2a) - One assist came on a tipped in goal, the other on a nice D-to-D pass for the young defenseman who was also sturdy in his own zone.

1. TOR: LW- Clarke MacArthur (2g, 0a) - Clarke struck twice in the second period, including what ended up being the game winning goal.  He's off to a fast start, scoring goals in all of his games as a Maple Leaf.

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