Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the first 40 minutes with puck pressure and three power play goals, then cruised past the seemingly helpless Toronto Maple Leafs. Crosby put on a show with a pair of unbelievable assists and a vintage Crosby four-point effort (1g, 3a) as the Penguins beat Toronto 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.
The win vaulted the Penguins into first place in the Metro Division, one point ahead of the Washington Capitals.
The night and the puck belonged to Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The shot total in the first period had no more bearing on the game than the number of Toronto sweaters mixed into the Pittsburgh crowd. The Penguins outskated and outworked Toronto in the first 20 minutes and the 13-12 Toronto shot advantage was moot.
Evgeni Malkin was a late scratch due to illness, so Penguins forward Jared McCann took Malkin’s spot in the middle of the second line and on the point of the top power-play unit. Shortly after the Penguins first power play began, McCann first blasted a shot to the net, then kept the puck in the zone which extended the Penguins possession.
Sidney Crosby dished a beauty saucer pass across the crease to Bryan Rust (23) who roofed his quick shot over sprawling Toronto goalie Frederick Andersen.
Later in the first period, the Penguins grinding push created a moment that will last forever with a few. Anthony Angello (1) deflected Sam Lafferty’s wrist shot for his first NHL goal, in his fifth NHL game. Lafferty lept into the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Angello to celebrate.
The Penguins broke the game open in the second period with two more power-play goals and suffocating puck pressure.
Early in the second period, Crosby continued dealing when pulled Toronto’s attention then zipped another pass across the crease to Jason Zucker (17) who slammed it into the net.
In front of the national TV audience, Crosby had more for Toronto, too.
Midway through the second period, the Penguins scored their third power-play goal in three chances. The Penguins again threaded the puck past the Toronto PK and Crosby as alone in the crease. Winger Patric Hornqvist snapped a pass to the crease and not even Andersen was there to stop Crosby (12), who tapped it into the open net.
A few minutes later, the Penguins PK killed off a 79-second five-on-three power play, then struck for an even strength goal as the Pittsburgh crowd showed appreciation for the important penalty kill. Bryan Rust negated an icing call, then Crosby gave the puck back to Rust who feathered a pass to Teddy Blueger in the slot.
As Crosby smiled, Blueger (9) popped the one-timer for a 5-0 Penguins lead.
The Penguins had three goals on four shots in the second period.
Toronto did rally for a pair of goals late in the second period. With a few minutes left in the period, Auston Matthews (43) ripped a bardown one-timer from the right-wing circle. Matthews leads the NHL in goals.
Nearly 90 seconds later, Toronto fourth line center Jason Spezza banked a pass off Kyle Clifford (7) and Jack Johnson, who were battling in the crease. The puck hit Clifford’s leg for the unlucky goal behind Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
In addition to Crosby’s four points, Rust had three points (1g, 2a).
Jarry stopped 34 of 36 shots for his 20th win of the season. Andersen stopped only 19 of 24 shots in the loss.