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Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

Associated Press

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Penguins-Maple Leafs Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Sidney Crosby may be headed for a scoring title and possibly an MVP award, but he is far from the only attraction on the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins try to continue their most successful run in more than a decade Saturday night when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not since the days Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis were playing for the team have the Penguins (28-17-9) put together a run like the one they currently are enjoying. They have points in 12 straight games (10-0-2) for the first time since a 14-game run (12-0-2) from Dec. 19-Jan. 21, 1997.

The surge has moved Pittsburgh from the outside of the playoff picture up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite their outstanding play, the Penguins still are only five points ahead of ninth-place Toronto (27-22-6).

Even when he fails to record a point in regulation, Crosby still delivered when it mattered most Thursday, scoring the only goal in the shootout to lift Pittsburgh to a 5-4 victory at Philadelphia.

The Penguins won despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period against the NHL's worst team.

"It's been a long time since we had a bad game," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Even if you're not at your best and you win, at this time of the year it's a good sign."

Crosby was 0-for-7 in shootouts before he beat Antero Niittymaki on the Penguins' third shot.

"I was having a tough time with shootouts," said the 19-year-old Crosby. "I just tried to go there and give it my best shot and see what happened and it went in."

It was just the second time in 33 games Pittsburgh won when Crosby didn't have a point.

While Crosby has deservedly garnered most of the attention with a league-leading 86 points in just his second season, several other Penguins are playing key roles.

Evgeni Malkin has six goals and 12 assists during the 12-game run while fellow rookie Jordan Staal, 18, has goals in four straight contests. Mark Recchi, in his 18th season, has nine goals and eight assists in his last 12 games and is one goal shy of his 15th 20-goal season.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury denied Jeff Carter, Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne in Thursday's shootout and improved to 9-0-2 in his last 11 starts. Fleury already has 26 wins in 45 games this season after winning 17 games in 71 contests his first two years in the NHL.

Toronto lost the special teams battle Thursday at Nashville and had their season-high five-game win streak snapped with a 4-2 defeat.

The Maple Leafs allowed the Predators to score twice on 11 power plays and failed to convert any of their own eight opportunities.

"I thought we were the better team 5-on-5, but our power play let us down," captain Mats Sundin said.

Sundin assisted on Alexei Ponikarovsky's first-period goal to extend his point streak to six games. He has three goals and four assists during the run.

Thursday's loss marked the first time this season the Leafs failed to record a point when Ponikarovsky scores a goal, ending an 11-0-2 streak.

Toronto plays four of its next five games at home, where it has lost three of four.

Recchi scored three straight power-play goals and Malkin had five assists in Pittsburgh's 8-2 rout of Toronto at Mellon Arena on Jan. 20. The Leafs had won nine of 10 in the series before losing both meetings this season.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 31 '07PIT 4 at TOR 5 - OTT. Kaberle
Feb 10 '07PIT 6 at TOR 5 - OTJ. Staal
Jan 20 '07TOR 2 at PIT 8M. Recchi
Dec 29 '06TOR 1 at PIT 4S. Gonchar
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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