Leafs race past Pens
PITTSBURGH – After spoiling openers in Philadelphia and New York, the Pittsburgh Penguins were accustomed to disappointing the home fans.
Unfortunately, they did the same thing in their own home opener Wednesday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won 5-2 before 18,641, the largest crowd the Penguins have drawn at Consol Energy Center.
The speedy Maple Leafs were quick to capitalize on mistakes, and the Penguins made too many of them.
“Our execution was not good,” winger Chris Kunitz said.
Coach Dan Bylsma seemed to anticipate trouble, remembering the problems the Maple Leafs created for the Penguins last season.
“The history last year against this team, the games looked a lot like they did today,” Bylsma said. “We gave too much room and space, and don’t have the same attention to detail and focus on how we play. I think you saw that tonight.”
The Leafs generally score goals against the Penguins. They got five on just 24 shots.
“They create chances pretty quickly,” Sidney Crosby said. “We definitely made a few mistakes, and the big ones that we made, they were able to capitalize. It definitely wasn’t our best game, that’s for sure.”
The Penguins came out of the first period on Evgeni Malkin’s first goal of the season, a power play score that came off Crosby’s pass.
In the second period, the Penguins made a steady path to the penalty box, and the Maple Leafs got three goals. None of them came on the four power plays, but the constant need to kill penalties was disruptive to the Penguins.
“Even if you kill them, it takes so much energy out of you, and (Crosby, Malkin and James Neal) sit on the bench,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “It’s not a good recipe for winning hockey games.”
Clark MacArthur tied the game for the Maple Leafs at 3:09 of the second, redirecting a shot by Nazem Kadri. The chance started with a Penguins turnover in the neutral zone.
The Maple Leafs went ahead 2-1 at 6:48 on the first of James Van Riemsdyk’s two goals. The play was made when winger Nikolai Kulemin was able to get past Kris Letang down the right side.
Crosby tied the score again with his first of the season. He blocked a shot, and Pascal Dupuis made a pass to send Crosby on a breakaway that ended with him getting a shot under goalie James Reimer’s left pad.
But the Leafs regained the lead before the end of the period, thanks to an egregious giveaway by Malkin. Malkin tried to pass the puck off then boards to the center of the ice, and put it on Van Riemsdyk’s stick. His quick shot went over Fleury’s glove and in off a goal post.
“Poor management of the puck,” Bylsma said. “We’re executing out of the defensive zone, and we put it on their tape. They put it in the net.”
The Penguins didn’t get a shot on goal in the first 10:45 of the third period. Mikhail Grabovski scored at 5:18, and Tyler Bozak scored on a 5-on-3 in the closing minutes.
Deryk Engelland had a savage first period fight with Colton Orr that lasted 1:06. Engelland came away with the most visible damage, a bruise under his right eye. Engelland’s reputation as a fighter was established in 2010 when he scored a knockdown win over Orr. ... The Penguins’ frustration was evident: Crosby picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing a too many men on the ice penalty at the end of the game. Malkin was assessed a game misconduct penalty as time ran out in the third. ... Kunitz was twice called for boarding, and may have to adjust to his game to stay compliant with current enforcement. ... Malkin and Neal were both minus-3. ... Malkin won only two of eight faceoffs. ... Crosby and Neal each had five shots on goal. ... The Penguins’ sellout streak is 255 games. ... Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul sat out the third period after being hit on the arm by teammate Dion Phaneuf’s shot. ... The Penguins open a two-game Canadian trip in Winnipeg Friday at 8 p.m.