Published November 20, 2014
Evgeni Malkin tied it with 6 seconds left in regulation and then scored the lone shootout goal to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-4 victory over Toronto on Tuesday night.
Malkin's 27th goal capped a furious third-period rally by the Penguins, who trailed by three with 13 minutes to play. The NHL's leading scorer later flipped a wrist shot past Jonas Gustavsson in the second round of the shootout to extend Pittsburgh's winning streak to eight games.
The Maple Leafs appeared to be in complete control after Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scored 19 seconds apart in the third period to give Toronto a 4-1 lead.
Pittsburgh put together a frantic rally that Malkin finished when James Neal's slap shot caromed off his shoulder and into the net.
Matt Cooke snapped a 19-game scoring drought for Pittsburgh, and Steve Sullivan and Joe Vitale keyed the Penguins' third-period surge. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots — some in spectacular fashion — and turned away all three Toronto chances in the shootout.
Mikhail Grabovski scored twice for Toronto and Gustavsson made 31 saves on a night when the Maple Leafs outplayed Pittsburgh for long stretches. Toronto became the first time in more than a month to outshoot the Penguins, peppering Fleury throughout.
The Penguins raced into the All-Star break as the hottest team in the NHL, ripping off seven straight victories to get back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Despite the six-day layoff — which included a couple of bonus vacation days as a gift from coach Dan Bylsma — Pittsburgh looked a little slow for much of the night.
Or maybe Toronto was that fast.
Using their speed to push the pace, the Leafs raced up and down the ice, seemingly turning every Pittsburgh mistake into an odd-man rush the other way.
Fleury was brilliant at times and lucky at least once. Bozak appeared to put the Maple Leafs up early in the first period, but the goal was wiped out when referees ruled Joffrey Lupul interfered with Fleury.
The Maple Leafs weren't fazed, and Grabovski beat Fleury twice in the second period. Though Cooke deflected Paul Martin's shot to put Pittsburgh on the board, Toronto looked to be on its way after Bozak and MacArthur beat Fleury on consecutive shots a little over six minutes into the third.
Sullivan's slap shot from the left circle got by Gustavsson to give Pittsburgh life, and Vitale's third goal of the season pulled the Penguins within one with just under five minutes to play.
Gustavsson stood tall as Pittsburgh swarmed, appearing to escape danger until one last Penguins rush. Neal took a pass from Sullivan and launched a shot from the right circle. Malkin was skating through the crease as the puck soared at his head. He flinched, and the puck banged into his chest and by Gustavsson. The call held up on video review and forced the playoff-like game into overtime.
Malkin easily scored on Gustavsson in the shootout, and Fleury turned away all three Toronto shooters, including a nifty poke check on All-Star Phil Kessel to end it.
The victory was the second boost the Penguins received in a span of three hours. The team revealed earlier Tuesday that captain Sidney Crosby is dealing with a soft-tissue injury in his neck.
There remains no timetable for his return, but Crosby indicated he was hopeful the injury — which can mimic symptoms of a concussion — is treatable.
NOTES: Toronto's Ron Wilson coached his 1,352nd game on Tuesday, moving him into fifth on the NHL career list. ... Fleury played in his career-high 23rd straight game. ... The Maple Leafs scratched defenseman Keith Aulie and forwards Jay Rosehill and Darryl Boyce. ... Ben Lovejoy and Arron Asham were scratched by the Penguins. ... The teams will meet again in Toronto on Wednesday.