Pittsburgh 6 – Toronto 5
Through two games, 38 year old winger Alexei Kovalev appears to be a rejuvenated player in his return to Pittsburgh, where he has played the best hockey of his career.
Tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kovalev helped snap the Penguins (37-21-6, 80 pts) four game losing streak, scoring in regulation, than netting the game winning goal in the shootout, leading Pittsburgh to a thrilling 6-5 shootout win over the Maple Leafs.
At 19:13 of the first period, Kovalev snapped a wrist shot past goaltender James Reimer for his 15th goal of the season and first goal as a Penguin since February 8th, 2003. The goal was Kovalev’s 150th as a Penguin.
Kovalev than got the best of Reimer in the shootout, beating Reimer top shelf over the glove hand with a wrister that ended up being the lone goal in the shootout as Marc Andre Fleury rebounded from a subpar game to stop all three Maple Leaf shooters.
In a highly entertaining back and fourth game, Pittsburgh got a crucial two points, reaching the 80 point mark with 18 games remaining. 90 points is expected to secure a playoff spot for teams in the Eastern Conference.
Kovalev (15), Mark Letestu (11), Dustin Jeffrey (5), Max Talbot (7) and Mike Rupp (6) all scored for Pittsburgh.
Marc Andre Fleury made 26 saves on 31 shots to record his 28th victory of the season.
Pittsburgh got a big game from the return of Mark Letestu who had a goal and an assist in the win. Letestu also had a team high 7 shots on goal and was very creative in the offensive zone.
Trailing 4-3 early in the third period, Max Talbot scored a big short-handed goal 6:34 into the third period for his 7th goal of the season.
Winger Tyler Kennedy (lower body) was a late scratch for Pittsburgh after warmups and Talbot was among the candidates to be a healthy scratch, if Kennedy didn’t come up with an injury.
Despite the loss, Toronto (27-27-8, 62 pts) got a big point as they move 5 points behind No. 8 seed Carolina.
Joffrey Lupul scored twice and Colby Armstrong, Clarke MacArthur and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Toronto.
The Penguins played their 23rd game without Sidney Crosby and are 11-9-3 without Crosby during that span.
Pittsburgh came into tonight’s game scoring just 17 goals in their previous 10 games.
Notes: Defenseman Paul Martin missed his 4th straight game due to a sore shoulder. Martin is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the midst of a five game road trip, Pittsburgh will return home and practice in Pittsburgh until Tuesday.