Leafs Rookies Win Second Straight
Sunday, 09.11.2011 / 10:20 PM ET / News
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By Clayton Hansler
-- Oshawa, ON
Some days all it takes is a little time to digest your surroundings before reaching full potential. Greg McKegg would be skating proof of this as he helped lift the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 to give the team a perfect 2-0-0 record in rookie tournament action.
After finishing the Leafs first game without a point, McKegg registered the primary assist on the first two Toronto goals and added his own tally in the third period with a backhand shot that forcefully found its way through Maxime Legace's legs.
"I think at the beginning (of the game) I was just feeling it out and we had some good chemistry early on. We potted a few but in the third period I got back to my stride and felt really good there," commented McKegg who has either a season in the NHL or a season back in the OHL ahead of him.
"It's definitely a good feeling having a good game tonight and it's a nice win for the boys."
Sunday's victory would mark the Leafs second come-from-behind win of the three game tournament.
It would not take long for the game to get going, as a shot from the Penguins' Brandon DeFazio would take a bad bounce escaping Toronto's netminder Garret Sparks only 13 seconds into the first period. The Toronto goaltender would play the next 59:47 flawlessly, completely shutting the door to the Pittsburgh team sparking coach Jim Hughes to exclaim sincerely, "wow, that was something. [Sparks] was busy all night long and he had some fantastic saves."
"It's all about improvement at this stage," said Sparks modestly about his performance against the Penguins and looking ahead to Tuesday's game against Ottawa. "I think that's what's so addicting about hockey; you can always do better."
Seemingly unfazed by the early deficit, the Leafs continued to press. Josh Nicholls registered his first of the tournament by pushing in a rebound after Greg McKegg's initial shot.
Toronto then took the lead on a second goal setup by McKegg. The OHL Erie Otters' captain sent a cross-crease pass to Mitchell Heard who shot the puck high over the netminder who could not cross in time. Heard's goal would hold up as the game winner.
As has been the style of the Maple Leafs rookie tournament, the first period would not close without a scuffle between Kyle Neuber and Stefan Fournier. Like in the fight, the Toronto team controlled the physical tempo and used it to maintain a firm hold on the Penguins. Both Sam Carrick and Kyle Neuber engaged in fights before the final buzzer would sound, pushing the Maple Leafs total to six fighting majors in as many periods.
Sam Carrick would extend the Maple Leafs lead to two during the game's middle stanza when he walked across the top of the crease and then deposited the disc through the five hole of the Penguins goalie.
Tyler Brenner would also add a goal with the time ticking down in the third period, after setting up McKegg's tally. In total, six Leafs players registered their first point of the tournament.
The Maple Leaf rookies will practice on Monday but enjoy an afternoon off before returning to competition against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday evening. Like the Leafs, the Senators have yet to lose during the mini tournament, outscoring the opposition by a combined 10-5 margin. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. at Oshawa's GM Centre.
Notes: Both Stuart Percy and David Broll would leave the bench for the Maple Leafs during the course of the game and would not return. Jim Hughes would confirm they were banged up, but could not comment on the extent. Sparks was named the game's Third star, Brenner the Second and McKegg the First.