Two Tlusty Goals The Difference In Win
PITTSBURGH (AP) --
During a confusing season in which neither the Maple Leafs nor the Penguins know what they will get from night to night, Jiri Tlusty gave Toronto far more than possibly could be expected in his first NHL game.
Tlusty, called up the day before, scored two goals 35 seconds apart during a four-goal flurry in the third period and the Maple Leafs shook off an early season slump for a 5-2 victory Thursday night that ended Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak.
``The NHL was my dream, now I've played in my first game and in my first game I scored my first two goals,'' said the 19-year-old Tlusty, a native of the Czech Republic and the No. 13 overall pick in 2006. ``It's great.''
Alexander Steen scored Toronto's first goal and had two assists and Mats Sundin added an assist while being largely responsible for shifting the momentum the Maple Leafs' way after the Penguins kept a 1-0 lead for half the game.
Sidney Crosby scored his third goal, all against Toronto, and assisted on a power-play goal by Sergei Gonchar during a two-man advantage but the Penguins lost for the second time in six games.
``We made some mistakes, and every mistake we made was in our net,'' Crosby said.
The Maple Leafs, the league's worst defensive team after giving up 42 goals in eight games, tied it 1-1 midway through the second when Steen scored his second goal. Not long before, the Maple Leafs survived nearly four continuous minutes of Penguins power-play time.
Tlusty, who was playing for Toronto's Marlies farm club, made it 2-1 by setting up in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and deflecting Steen's 35-footer over Fleury's left shoulder 1:45 into the third. Steen was initially credited with the goal.
As a result, Tlusty thought he had scored his first career goal 35 seconds later with a strong wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Pavel Kubina assisted on both of Tlusty's goals.
``I closed my eyes and took the shot and said, `We'll see,' and it went in,'' Tlusty said of his second goal, which he thought was his first.
The Maple Leafs kept the puck from that goal, thinking it was his first, but apparently did not retrieve the puck from what became his first goal. Tlusty had one goal in five Marlies games.
``Jiri had a great game for us,'' Steen said. ``He used his speed, got to the puck quickly and as soon as we got open it felt like he would find us. He played a great hockey game defensively as well. He'll be flying after this.''
He already was.
Tlusty was so excited when general manager John Ferguson called at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday to tell him to report to the Maple Leafs' practice that day, he never went back to sleep. The third player called up by the Leafs this week, Tlusty made an immediate impact on a team that had allowed 22 goals in its four most recent losses.
``I was nervous before the game, but after the first period my nerves calmed down,'' Tlusty said. ``After the second period, I felt real good.''
Toronto, previously 0-4-1 against Pittsburgh the last two seasons, again scored twice barely 30 seconds apart later in the third with Tomas Kaberle
and Boyd Devereaux getting goals. Previously, Toronto had been outscored 17-9 in the third period.
``We had some fun, they were talking to each other and there was no tension,'' Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. ``I was happy for them. They've been tight for a while and that was a great breakthrough.''
Fleury had turned aside 66 of 67 shots in winning his last two starts, only to give up five goals on 27 shots during a ragged performance. Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala made 23 saves.
``We weren't concentrating when we came out (in the third) and we gave them chances pretty much and they capitalized on it,'' Gonchar said.
Penguins coach Michel Therrien was perplexed with a team that was coming off three consecutive one-goal victories.
``I was really surprised,'' he said. ``We didn't compete. We didn't execute. When you don't executive, you create turnovers.''
Penguins coach Michel Therrien switched up his lines, with last season's rookie of the year, Evgeni Malkin, playing with Crosby for the first time. Both are natural centers. ... Pittsburgh was 12-2-2 in its previous 16 against original six clubs. ... Toronto had allowed five goals or more in four of its previous five games. ... Toronto won on the road for the first time in three games (1-1-1). The Maple Leafs began a stretch of six of seven on the road. ... Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in all nine games. ... Penguins RW Mark Recchi hasn't scored a goal since the opener despite playing most of the season on Crosby's line.
|Three star selections