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Super Swede Powers Past Pens

Tuesday, 27.12.2005 / 8:31 PM / News
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Super Swede Powers Past Pens

December 17, 2005

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs came dangerously close to spoiling their perfect record when leading after two periods.

After building an 11-0-1 mark when holding that kind of advantage, the Maple Leafs allowed the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins to get even in the third period and have numerous opportunities to go ahead.

But Toronto held off Pittsburgh, which had five power plays in the final 20 minutes, and Tomas Kaberle scored 2:26 into overtime to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory Tuesday night.

"Our (penalty kill) came through at the end,'' said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who had a goal and two assists. "It looked like Pittsburgh had enough chances to get the game-winner with a few minutes left. It was a tough game. We battled hard. It was a good two points for us.''

The Maple Leafs have won three straight, but Pittsburgh is going in the opposite direction. The Penguins are 0-4, with two overtime losses, since Michel Therrien replaced fired coach Eddie Olczyk on Dec. 15. Overall they have been defeated in five straight and 12 of 13.

The Penguins outshot Toronto 14-6 in the third period, got a tying goal from Michel Ouellet and had two consecutive minutes of a two-man advantage with about six minutes to play in regulation.

"You start thinking about all of the bad things that are not necessarily about your team,'' Toronto coach Pat Quinn said of the two minors to Alexander Khavanov and one each to Kaberle and Ken Klee within a 3 minute span. "They're playing hard but you start to wonder why there aren't some breaks somehow.''

The Maple Leafs got the biggest break of all _ the winning goal _ on Kaberle's wrist shot from the slot off a pass from Sundin. Sundin and Darcy Tucker crisscrossed going over the blue-line to open up space for Kaberle.

"I got to an open spot, and no one was around me,'' Kaberle said. "I had a little bit of time to choose where I wanted to shoot.''

The Penguins opened the scoring for only the ninth time this season.

On a two-man advantage 7:29 into the second period, Sergei Gonchar's shot was deflected twice out of the air, first by John LeClair and then by Mark Recchi, who got it past Mikael Tellqvist for his 10th goal.

But Khavanov tied it 1:07 later when he scored his second goal of the season while alone in the slot off a rebound of Sundin's shot.

Sundin gave the Maple Leafs a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal with 37.7 seconds left in the second period. He scored his eighth on a slap shot from above the right circle that beat Marc-Andre Fleury.

"That's exactly what you try to do on the power play _ put the puck on the net,'' Sundin said.

The Penguins had been 0-16-5 when trailing after two periods but had the better of the play in the third. Penguins rookie Sidney Crosby added to his extensive list of highlight-reel assists, by setting up the tying goal.

With the puck behind the Toronto net while Pittsburgh was on a power play, Crosby was pulled down by Kaberle but maintained possession of the puck while on his knees. He got to the side of the net and flipped a shot off Tellqvist's pads before gathering his own rebound _ while still on his knees _ and fed the puck across the goal line to Michel Ouellet, who slammed a shot in with 7:34 left in regulation.

"He made a good play,'' said Tellqvist, who had 33 saves. "I didn't think he would go wraparound like that. I made a good save and he got it back on his knees.''

But despite maintaining the momentum and 3:23 of consecutive power-play time, Pittsburgh could not take the lead.

"That was our best opportunity to get the win, but I don't think we let up after,'' Crosby said. "We were still pushing and pressing to get the win and finish the game, but it just didn't happen. We have to make sure that we take advantage of opportunities like that.''

All of Therrien's defeats have been by one goal.

"It has been four games in a row we could have won,'' Therrien said. "We are facing a lot of adversity and are having a hard time finding the formula right now to win close games. It is not that we are not in the game; every single game we are there. We have to keep focus because it is tough _ really tough.''

Notes: The game marked the five-year anniversary of Mario Lemieux's comeback from retirement. He had a goal and two assists in the Penguins' 5-0 win over the Maple Leafs after sitting out for 3{ years. Lemieux wasn't around for this rematch, though, as he missed his third straight game and seventh in eight contests due to an irregular heartbeat. ... The Maple Leafs haven't lost in Pittsburgh since Nov. 1, 2001.

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