On Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-6-3) coiled around the Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-3) and squeezed the life out of them in the third period. The Penguins allowed just four shots in the third period of a 4-2 win. Their defensive effort prompted praise from Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe who called it a “clinic.” The Penguins have points in three straight and host Toronto at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m.
Two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray is likely the Toronto starter. Murray has not played in Pittsburgh since being traded to Ottawa in the summer of 2020. Murray received a warm ovation last season as a member of the Ottawa Senators but did not play due to injury.
The Penguins are 2-0-1 in their last three, following a seven-game winless streak. However, the recent road trip ended on a down note in a sloppy, disjointed OT loss to the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4, at the Bell Centre. The Penguins twice had third period leads and twice lost it in less than one minute.
Jason Zucker had an injury scare but quickly returned to the game. He had three assists. Evgeni Malkin’s line lit up the scoreboard. Rickard Rakell had two points (1-1-2), and Malkin also had a goal. Jeff Petry and Brock McGinn also scored.
On Saturday, Toronto shook off their quiet loss to the Penguins with a 3-2 win over the increasingly futile Vancouver Canucks. After trailing 2-0 in the first period, Toronto scored three in the second. Auston Matthews scored his seventh. Jordie Benn and Pierre Engvall also scored, and Erik Kallgren stopped 27 of 29 shots.
The Penguins remain in seventh place in the Metro Division, while Toronto is second in the Atlantic. However, the Penguins’ points streak has slightly improved their Eastern Conference standings. They’re now third from the last and two points out of a wild-card spot, though four teams are between them and the Florida Panthers in the second wild card.
Casey DeSmith will start for the Penguins. He was very good against Toronto on Friday, while Tristan Jarry made a handful of thieving saves but was also leaky in the Saturday loss to Montreal.
In terms of matchups, Toronto is talented and can transition with the Penguins, but the Penguins are the tougher team to play against. If the Penguins heed the lessons of their win on Friday, they will keep the puck low and keep it on their stick. Toronto has every reason to invite the Penguins into a track meet.
The Penguins’ weakness remains special teams; a lackluster power play combined with a weak penalty kill isn’t a good recipe.
Evgeni Malkin missed practice on Monday, but it was an excused absence, not an injury. He participated in the morning skate on Tuesday. P.O Joseph was a full participant at practicer after being scratched due to a nagging injury in the previous two games.
Sullivan also said Teddy Blueger’s status is “reactionary.” The Penguins continue to put Blueger through physical tests and monitor his response and recovery. He remains on LTIR, allowing the Penguins an extra forward with the salary cap overage.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Toronto Maple Leafs Lines, Per PuckPedia.com
Penguins Power Play: 10-52, 19.2%, 24th
Penguins Penalty Kill: 13-53, 75.5%, 24th
Toronto Power Play: 14-53, 26.4%, 6th
Toronto Penalty Kill: 13-55, 76.4%, 21st
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
Sidney Crosby is on pace for the second-worst possession metrics of his career. His Corsi is currently 50.2%, which is his lowest since 2007-08 when faced more shot attempts than taken (49.6%).
Crosby remains tied with Bryan Trottier for 17th on the NHL all-time scoring list (1425). He is one point ahead of Alex Ovechkin, who is 19th.
The second period has been the Penguins’ best. They have outscored opponents 24-15.
Last season, the Penguins went 18-5-2 in games when they have two or more days of rest before a game. In the 22 of those games that Jake Guentzel dressed, he put up 16 goals, 16 assists, and 32 points.
Jason Zucker, Evgeni Malkin, and Rickard Rakell were a driving force on Saturday in Montreal, as the trio combined for six points (2G-4A) and generated six of the team’s 11 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Jake Guentzel is tied with Chris Kunitz for ninth on the Penguins’ all-time goals list (169). He trails Mike Bullard (185) for eighth.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T Sportsnet; Radio: 105.9 The X
Pittsburgh Penguins Bets
The Penguins are a slight favorite on the Moneyline (-105). We checked around, and DraftKings has the best Penguins betting odds. Oddsmakers must have missed the game on Friday, as the Over (6.5) is a big play (-130), while the Under is a solid return (+110).
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I like the Penguins. The motor is almost turning over, and you can feel them getting better. Their biggest problem is staying on top of opponents. The Penguins give up too many leads. They take a breath too often. However, I didn’t see the necessary fight from Toronto on Friday. When the Penguins made them play hardnosed hockey, it was over.
I’ll take the Penguins on the MoneyLine. The Under is tempting, and Jason Zucker is also +270 to score a goal. That’s pretty enticing, too.