Penguins fall to Toronto, 5-2, in home opener
Toronto goaltender James Reimer stops a shot by Penguins' Evgeni Malkin in the second period last night at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury watches a shot by Toronto's James van Riemsdyk get by for a goal in the second period Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
Evgeni Malkin is taken down in front of the net by Toronto's Dion Phaneuf in the third period Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center. Malkin scored his first goal of the season, but it wasn't enough as the Maple Leafs spoiled the Penguins home opener.
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The Penguins have been consistent contenders for the past half-decade or so.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been little more than a punch line for much of that time.
Not much seems to when those teams meet.
Forget throwing out the records out when they play; simply discard any semblance of logic.
And so it was Wednesday night, when the Penguins -- coming off solid victories in Philadelphia and New York and playing at home for the first time in nine months -- had every reason to be confident heading into their game against the Leafs at Consol Energy Center.
And every reason after their 5-2 loss to wonder yet again why Toronto gives them such fits so often.
"They have our number, for some reason," Penguins left winger Chris Kunitz said.
The Maple Leafs regularly drew the Penguins (2-1) into the kind of mistakes they had avoided, in large part, in the previous two games.
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"Definitely not our best game, for sure," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said.
Not that it often is when the Maple Leafs come to town. Toronto has, after all, won a game here in five of the past six seasons.
The home opener attracted a record crowd of 18,641, the Penguins' 255th consecutive sellout. Those fans got to see the Penguins' franchise players, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, score their first goals of the season, but they also witnessed the Penguins sabotaging themselves with frequent lapses in judgment and execution.
It was entirely fitting that their defeat was sealed when the Penguins, trying to overcome a 4-2 deficit, were caught with too many men on the ice at 18:09 of the third period.
And that Malkin's final act of the game was to pick up a game misconduct after time expired, presumably for offering an unsolicited critique of the work of referees Ghislain Hebert and Kelly Sutherland.
The only negative for the Maple Leafs was that they lost one of their top forwards, Joffrey Lupul, who suffered a broken forearm when struck by a shot from teammate Dion Phaneuf in the second period.
The Penguins were short-handed no fewer than eight times, including one stretch during the middle of the second period when they were down a man -- and sometimes two -- for a span of five minutes and three seconds.
They got through that without allowing a goal, but being short-handed so much meant the Penguins did a better job of neutralizing impact forwards such as Malkin and James Neal than Toronto could have hoped to.
"The second period, whether you agree with the calls or not, we took a lot of energy out of ourselves killing penalties," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
He added that, "[Malkin and Neal] are two of our best guys, who didn't see the ice in the second period."
Malkin got the only goal of the first 20 minutes when he put a shot between the legs of Toronto goalie James Reimer from along the goal line to the right of the net on a power play at 18:51. Assists went to Crosby, who has at least one point in seven consecutive games against the Maple Leafs, and Kris Letang;
Toronto pulled even at 3:09 of the third period as Clarke MacArthur steered a Nazim Kadri pass by Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins fell behind for the first time this season when James van Riemsdyk knocked his own rebound past Fleury at 6:48, but they didn't stay there for long as Crosby pulled in a lead pass from Pascal Dupuis and beat Reimer from above the left hash at 7:17.
Toronto, though, capitalized on a turnover to go back in front to stay at 14:34, as van Riemsdyk intercepted a Malkin pass near the top of the left circle and whipped a shot past Fleury's glove.
The Maple Leafs added an insurance goal at 5:18 of the third, when Mikhail Grabovski put a shot over Fleury's glove from inside the right circle and rubbed it in with a five-on-three power-play goal by Tyler Bozak with 61 seconds left in regulation.
The Penguins finished with a 30-24 edge in shots, but they managed the puck too poorly, gave the Maple Leafs too much room to operate and paid too little attention to detail to expect to get anything more than frustration out of this game.
"There are lots of things we could have done better," Orpik said.
Which, recent history has shown, is something that happens a lot when they play the Maple Leafs.
First Published January 24, 2013 12:09 am