Mar 9, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins Escape Toronto With Shootout Victory

The Pittsburgh Penguins know that if they want to be successful they couldn’t afford to start hockey games the way they did the other night in Philadelphia. As the took on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night that wouldn’t be a problem.

It only took the Penguins 36 seconds to strike. James Neal would give the Penguins a 1-0 lead with a turning slap shot from the high slot. The goal was Neal’s 16th of the season and the third straight game in which he has scored a goal.

Mar 9, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) celebrates his goal with defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a high sticking penalty from Beau Bennett, it didn’t take long for the Maple Leafs to tie it up. Twelve seconds was all it took for the Maple Leafs to score. Phil Kessel shot the puck and it was tipped by James van Riemsdyk who was camped out in front of the net with nobody putting a body on him. The goal was Riemsdyk’s 14th of the season. The Penguins had a great opportunity to regain the lead when the Maple Leafs took back to back penalties giving the Penguins 40 seconds of 5 on 3 power play time but were unable to score.

Being unable to score on the power play did not bother the Penguins as they kept the pressure on scoring the next two goals. Sidney Crosby was able to take a wide shot from Kris Letang and wrist it into an empty net as Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was out of position. The goal was Crosby’s 12th of the season. Then Paul Martin joined the rush and threw one off the pads of Reimer. Reimer made the initial save but the rebound laid right in the front of the net right where Beau Bennett was standing. To prevent Bennett from scoring Reimer’s teammate waved at the puck and ended up knocking it in his own net. Martin was rewarded with his fifth goal of the season. At the end of the first period the Penguins lead 3-1.

The Penguins were just rolling along in the second period maintaining their 3-1 lead. That was until Crosby went into the box for tripping. Just like the first power play it didn’t take the Maple Leafs long to score. Seventeen seconds was all the Maple Leafs needed to cut the Penguins lead in half. Cody Franson scored his second of the season making it a 3-2 hockey game. The penalty kill has to be a serious question mark for the Penguins as it seems every time they go to the box the puck ends up behind their net.

The very next shift after the power play Kessel had a great opportunity to tie the game, but Marc Andre Fleury was up to the challenge making a great save moving from left to right keeping it a 3-2 hockey game.

Even though their lead was cut in half the Penguins didn’t sit back and protect the lead they attacked and went right back to work. Pascal Dupuis was able to bank one in off of Reimer for his ninth of the season. However, the Maple Leafs were not going to go away as it only took a minute for them to make it a one goal game again. Clarke MacArthur, who seems to always score against the Penguins, scored his seventh of the season making it a 4-3 game.

Leading by a goal in the third period the Penguins knew that the Maple Leafs would throw everything at them to get the tying goal. The Penguins seemed up to the challenge for most of the period including killing a penalty with nine minutes left. But the Leafs kept coming in waves and were finally able to get the goal with four minutes left. Kessel scored his seventh of the year.

Evgeni Malkin took a vicious hit towards the end of the third period that kept him out of the overtime session and the shootout. As it turned out the Penguins didn’t need Malkin for the shootout as Neal and Crosby both scored and Fleury stopped all shots for the win. Even though Fleury gave up four goals he played well down the stretch. Making huge saves in the third period and overtime including a couple on Kessel.

While the Penguins escaped Toronto with the two points (giving them 34 on the season) there is much to worry about this team. The penalty has just been awful of late, they blow leads and allow teams to get back into. They blew two two goal leads tonight. And now they have to wonder will Malkin be able to go tomorrow when they take on the New York Islanders.

Tags: James Neal Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby

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