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Penguins Outplayed, Outworked & Out of Luck, 4-1



Pittsburgh Penguins game, Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins played some pretty good hockey during their recent five-game winning streak.

However, they apparently had gotten it out of their system — at least for a few hours — by Saturday night, based on their performance during a 4-1 loss to Toronto at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins were outplayed, as well as outworked, for much of the evening, as reflected by the Maple Leafs’ 41-26 edge in shots on goal.

The loss was the Penguins’ second to Toronto in 12 days and dropped their record to 11-8-3.

“We just got outplayed,” Mike Sullivan said. “I thought Toronto played hard. You have to give Toronto credit. They played hard. They defended hard. They made us work for our offense, and I thought we gave them some easy looks. We’ve got to do a better job of pushing back. We need to defend harder. We got outplayed.”

Perhaps it should have been apparent from the opening shift that things would not go well for them on this evening.

The Penguins’ top line made a questionable change during the first minute of play, leaving the ice when Toronto had the puck in the neutral zone, and paid for it when Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner drove to the net unchallenged and slid a forehand shot past Casey DeSmith 40 seconds into the game.

“It’s tough to come out that way, give up a goal that early, especially at home,” DeSmith said.

The goal extended Marner’s scoring streak to 16 games, two shy of the franchise record.

Sidney Crosby was visibly frustrated on the bench after Marner scored and appeared to kick the back side of the boards several times as he sat there. He subsequently adjourned to the locker room for several minutes, and while there was no immediate explanation for his departure, it certainly seems possible that his skate needed some work.

Jason Zucker had several chances to pull the Penguins even after they failed to take advantage of a power play awarded when Victor Mete was penalized for holding at 3:27, but goalie Erik Kallgren stopped his point-blank backhander. A few minutes later, Zucker sent a Bryan Rust rebound over of the net.

Although both teams had opportunities to score during Period 1, Toronto generated most of them, several on odd-man breaks. The Maple Leafs ran up a 17-5 advantage in shots, which seemed like a reasonable reflection of the play in those 20 minutes.

Five of those shots came while Marcus Pettersson was serving a hooking minor assessed at 12:59. The Penguins, though, got through those two minutes unscathed, their 15th successful penalty-kill in a row.

They ran that streak to 16 after Jeff Petry was sent off for interference 54 seconds into the second. The Penguins’ net was dislodged for a dozen or so seconds during that Toronto power play before play was stopped and it was put back in place.

Although Toronto was dominating play, Rickard Rakell appeared to tie the game at 7:58, when he knocked a puck over the goal line after it sat in the crease behind Kallgren, but the goal was disallowed because play had been blown dead after referee Kelly Sutherland lost sight of the puck.

The non-goal ruling seemed to invigorate the Pittsburgh Penguins and they carried the play for several minutes, but Toronto ended their surge by getting a goal at 9:55.

Pontus Holmberg scored it, beating DeSmith from above the right hash, after getting a feed from Marner, who had stolen the puck from Kris Letang in the right corner.

The Maple Leafs struck again at 10:50, when Michael Nylander was left unchecked below the right hash and buried a shot behind DeSmith to make it 3-0.

“Obviously, they’re a good team and they like to push the pace,” Jake Guentzel said. “You can’t give them any free offense.”

Rakell finally got the Penguins on the board at 11:30 of the third, as he threw a shot past Kallgren from the inner edge of the right circle.

The goal, Rakell’s ninth, netted assists for Guentzel and Crosby.

However, Auston Matthews snuffed any chance of a Penguins comeback at 14:36, as he beat DeSmith with a turning shot from between the hash marks. Matthews also assisted on the first and third Toronto goals.

“I wish we could have stuck with it a little more, made the game a little closer,” DeSmith said. “But it is what it is.”