The Leafs and the Penguins, two dominant QMJHL (apparently?) franchises, met up at Consol Energy Centre Wednesday night for the drunkest game of the season. Despite throwing everything at Jonathan Bernier in the second half of the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins could not skate away with a regulation victory. Despite scoring five goals on 24 shots, chasing the starting goaltender and scoring on the first shot the backup faced, the Maple Leafs couldn’t hang on in the end.
There’s some wonky strategy employed by Randy Carlyle in the way he defends leads. Again, Toronto didn’t get a shot in the final 25:04 of the game, yet skate out of Pittsburgh with a point, falling 6-5 in a shootout.
Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead after the Maple Leafs defence let Chris Connor get wide open in the slot, and they very nearly made it 2-0 as Sidney Crosby was stopped right in front by Jonathan Bernier. It looked like a repeat of the Columbus game, as the Leafs conceded eight shots before managing one, but then a series of hilarious mistakes helped the Leafs scored four unanswered goals over the next 15 minutes or so of game time.
First, a dumb interference penalty by Simon Despres helped tie the game at one, as the Leafs converted quickly on the powerplay with another excellent tip by James van Riemsdyk in front. Then on a standard breakout, another rookie defenceman Olli Maatta for some reason forgot to come off the bench, giving the Leafs a 3-on-1 that Nazem Kadri converted on. At the start of the third period, Marc-Andre Fleury made his second giveaway of the game, failing to hook up with defenceman Kris Letang and instead having the puck stolen by James van Riemsdyk, who scored his second, and finally, Letang was easily bodied off the puck by Tyler Bozak, who set up Phil Kessel wide open in the slot to make it 4-1 before anybody had taken their seats for the start of the second.
A couple of powerplay goals by the Penguins made it 4-3 (Evgeni Malkin also had one waved off due to a high stick) but Tyler Bozak managed to tap one in as time expired in the third, thanks to a real thoughtless pass by an inebriated Brooks Orpik:
Refereeing got the worst of the Leafs in the third period. After a fairly weak call on Jerred Smithson for holding, van Riemsdyk took down Letang in the neutral zone and the Penguins went on a 5-on-3. Bozak lost his stick, and Evgeni Malkin deked around him before feeding it to James Neal for the 5-4 goal. Four minutes later, Malkin got the benefit of a call as he pushed Jonathan Bernier into the net before banging home a rebound.
The Leafs managed to go the entire third period and overtime without a shot on goal, and Jeff Zatkoff didn’t have to make a save until Tyler Bozak’s first attempt in the shootout. Bernier was deked out by a patient Sidney Crosby and looked pretty brutal on a pokecheck attempt, and after a David Clarkson miss, Malkin, of all friggin’ people, beat Bernier to seal a Penguins victory.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
It’s not even worth parsing tonight. We’ll have more tomorrow.
Jonathan Bernier was tested 48 times. James Neal, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kristopher Letang combined for as many shots on goal as the Leafs did.
The Leafs are back it Friday night in Buffalo. They might get a shot on goal in that game.