The Pittsburgh Penguins (29-17-4, 62 pts)Â rallied from a 4-1 third period deficit as Evgeni Malkin (27) scored with 6.6 seconds left in regulation and scored the lone goal in the shootout, leading the Penguins to a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs (25-19-6,Â 56 pts)Â on Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.
The victory was the Penguins 8th straight win and their fourth shootout win in their last six games. Marc Andre Fleury was excellent down the stretch stopping all three shooters in the shootout, earning his 27th win of the season. He made 35 saves on 39 shots.
Pittsburgh stormed back in the third period in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season in the final 15-18 minutes of play. Pittsburgh appeared down and out as Tyler Bozak (8) and Clark MacArthur (15) scored 19 seconds apart, giving Toronto a 4-1 third period lead with 13:23 remaining in the third period.
Toronto was in control of the game, dominating play offensively but Steve Sullivan (10) tilted momentum, cutting Toronto’s lead to 4-2 at 8:33 of the third. “We got a great goal from Sully on a fortunate play. That was a big goal for us and we got a great goal from Joey V to get it to 4-3” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Vitale’s big goal at 15:01 got Pittsburgh within one and then it was a puck banking off Evgeni Malkin’s chest/shoulder on a James Neal shot that forced overtime in what of late is the type of bounces the games best player is getting. “He was in the right spot going to the cage, got us a huge goal 6-on-5 in the end, ” Bylsma said.
The Penguins are a team right now that does not panic and that was clear tonight. “Before we might have panicked or not feel as confident, ” Fleury said. Now we’re down and we keep playing the same way, all the way through.”
Pittsburgh trails first place New York by just five points.
“Obviously when you win that many games in a row, you’re a pretty confident group, ” Joe Vitale said.
ROLE PLAYERS STEP UP:Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury’s were clutch once again in crunch time but what stood out with tonight’s thrilling win was the play of the Penguins role players.
“It’s good to have other guys step up and contribute a little bit, ” Joe Vitale said.
“Everybody was chipping in tonight, ” defenseman Kris Letang added.
Steve Sullivan jump started the Penguins rally, coming down the right side with speed and blistering a slap shot past Jonas Gustavsson and getting Pittsburgh back in the game. Sullivan who has scored in consecutive games, might have had his best game in a Penguins uniform especially in 5-on-5 play, an area he struggled mightily at this season. He added an assist on Malkin’s tying goal.
Matt Cooke scored for the first time in 21 games and he was really mixing things up, something that hasn’t been there on a consistent basis this season since he’s tried to change his game. However, In the past handful of games, Cooke is starting to become more aggressive and that has to continue.
MAPLE LEAFS IMPRESS IN LOSS: Players inside the locker room and even head coach Dan Bylsma seem to feel after the game that the Penguins were extremely fortunate and didn’t deserve to come out with the W. It also didn’t hurt that the bounces keep going the Penguins way, as Tyler Bozak had a clear goal dis-allowed on a blown goalie interference call by the refs.
“We didn’t prepare ourselves right, but at the end of the day, we found a way to win, ” Letang said.
Overall, Toronto was impressive in how they dictated the play, showing great team speed and creating turnovers in the neutral zone and quickly attacking the Penguins the other way.
“That wasn’t a lot of what we like to see on the ice, ” Bylsma said. “They played extremely well and played extremely fast and made it tough on our team.”
However, as good as the Leafs looked, they showed clear signs of a borderline playoff team that just doesn’t have that killer instinct yet against good teams.
âWe have to learn from this and bounce back, â Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said.
NOTES:Marc Andre Fleury made his 23rd straight appearance. Brent Johnson is likely to start Wednesday night in Toronto…..Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey each went 10 of 15 on draws…….Colin McDonald recalled in the morning had 9:38 of ice time and 1 shot on goal playing on the 4th line….Ben Lovejoy (healthy) and Arron Asham (concussion) were healthy scratches…..Pittsburgh is 12-2 in their 14 shootouts.
TOR 6:51 Mikhail Grabovski (17)
Assists: Dion Phaneuf, Nikolai Kulemin 1-0 TOR
TOR 9:55 Mikhail Grabovski (18)
Assists: Clarke MacArthur, Luke Schenn 2-0 TOR
PIT 16:07 Matt Cooke (8)
Assists: Paul Martin, Richard Park 2-1 TOR
TOR 6:18 Tyler Bozak (8) (Power Play)
Assists: Jake Gardiner, Carl Gunnarsson 3-1 TOR
TOR 6:37 Clarke MacArthur (15)
Assists: Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin 4-1 TOR
PIT 8:33 Steve Sullivan (10)
Unassisted 4-2 TOR
PIT 15:01 Joe Vitale (3)
Assists: Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy 4-3 TOR
PIT 19:53 Evgeni Malkin (27)
Assists: James Neal, Steve Sullivan 4-4