After the first period, this was a 50/50 game that the Leafs didn’t end up on the right end of. Toronto will be ruing some missed scoring chances and blown powerplay opportunities on the plane ride home.
1 – Randy Carlyle started the game with the Holland, Lupul and Raymond line and Phaneuf-Gunnarsson on defence. They simply weren’t ready to start the game, while the Penguins came flying out of the gates with a Vitale, Conner and Sutter combination. The Leafs were a scrambling mess; with Holland laying down in the crease and the wingers collapsed, the Penguins scored off a point shot by Brian Dumoulin that took a deflection off of Chris Conner, making it 1-0 Pittsburgh 39 seconds into the game. Amid a scramble around the net before the goal, Lupul ended up way down by the goalline to the right of the net and was late closing on Dumoulin as a result.
The next shift, Kadri got stick lifted at his own blueline with a ton of time to move the puck. The Leafs just didn’t seem ready from the start, which is disappointing given the Penguins’ thrown-together, undermanned defence may have wilted under some early pressure.
2 – There wasn’t much to report on in the rest of the 1st. A couple of point blank saves by Bernier kept the lead at 1. A good hit by Dion gave up a 2 on 1, before Bodie threw a big hit followed by a good bout with Bortuzzo. The Leafs had the lone powerplay opportunity of the period. The Leafs’ first-unit powerplay D pair (Franson-Dion) again struggled to break and hold the zone. Gadiner and Rielly each skated it in themselves in the second half of the powerplay, but the Lupul line was struggling to get itself set up in the zone.
First period shot locations:
That isn’t good enough. Sportsnet yammered on about point shots, which is how the Penguins scored their goal, but the grade A chances there are the bigger concern. Bernier bailed the Leafs out a couple of times to keep them in this one after 20.
3 – The Leafs could only muster chip outs to no one into the neutral zone for the first few minutes of the 2nd period, and struggled with their organization on the breakout to start the period.
Five minutes into the period, Nazem Kadri drew a hard-earned powerplay after taking a punch and high stick to the face from Matt Niskanen.
4 – The first PP unit at least got set up this time, but nothing was doing on this PP. That’s until Morgan Rielly hopped over the boards, hit the accelerator, and caught Marc-Andre Fleury sleeping with a high shot short side from the top of the circle after weaving right to left through the Penguin zone. Rielly at full sprint is a sight to behold. Congratulations to Morgan Rielly on his first career NHL goal (his second unofficially).
Rielly, Gardiner and Franson are now on the board, which is a welcome sight as the Leafs goal production from the D has been slow in the first half of the season.
The Leafs did a much better job generating chances in this period. The top line was buzzing, but couldn’t convert; Kessel had a couple of good looks. An amazing stretch pass from Gardiner to Raymond for a breakaway was a prime chance that went unconverted as well.
6 – Amid a tight checking third period, a borderline hit by Robert Bortuzzo on Jerry D’Amigo sent Jerry D to the dressing room. The hit looked worse in real time than it was, I think. As much as I feel for D’Amigo there – he’s been great in his role the past few games – it was more of an unfortunate play than a dirty hit. It was one of those borderline bodychecks where D’Amigo is hunched over reaching forwards while Bertuzzo is 6’4 and standing up a player who is 5’10. Difficult one to assess if the League looks at it.
D’Amigo returned a few minutes later, only to get rocked by Bortuzzo for a second time and return to the dressing room. Looked like a rib or shoulder injury.
7 – After Gardiner iced the puck with six minutes left in the third period, the Penguins got the Crosby line out for an offensive zone faceoff against McClement, JvR, Kulemin, Liles and Gardiner. The Leafs won the draw, but Gardiner’s clear along the boards sent the forwards for a loop as they seemed to think the puck was going to clear the zone. McClement lost Crosby in the slot, which is a cardinal sin. That was the game winner.
8 – Before that goal, Nikolai Kulemin had an empty net and the potential game winner on his stick after a bounce off the end boards fell to him in front. After the goal, Dion Phaneuf beat a defender wide, found McClement in front, and the puck deflected off the crossbar. This game was 50/50.
Third period shot locations:
9 – Nazem Kadri drew his third penalty of the night with 1:05 remaining; a tripping call on Kunitz. Phaneuf and Franson came over the boards. Not that it was their fault the Leafs didn’t tie it up, but at least one of Gardiner and Rielly needs to be out there. The Leafs had a few half-looks, before Lupul threw a puck at the back of the net and lost a battle behind the goal, with no support down low despite a 6 on 4 advantage. Phaneuf knocked down the clearance attempt with a nice desperation play, but couldn’t get the puck around Brent Sutter, who skated the puck into neutral ice and scored on the empty net.
10 – No time to dwell, as the Leafs are back at it tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are no easier of a challenge than the injury and suspension-riddled Penguins; they’ve won five of six and are rested.
Given the Leafs took just one penalty and had five powerplay opportunities – plus the Penguins’ heavily depleted lineup – we were hoping for better.
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||0||0||0||-2||0||5||2||0||1||1||0%||5:28:00||0:22:00||22:27:00|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|45||J. Bernier (L)||28 - 30||0.933||0||58:56:00|
Carlyle Post Game:
Game in 6 Highlights: