NHL Game Summary - Pittsburgh at Toronto
(Saturday, February 14th)
Final Score: Toronto 6, Pittsburgh 2
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Jason Blake had two goals to kickstart Toronto's five-goal third period, as the Maple Leafs routed the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-2, at Air Canada Centre.
Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov each had a goal and two assists for Toronto, which opened a four-game homestand and snapped a two-game losing streak. Alexei Ponikarovsky added a goal and assist, while John Mitchell also tallied for the Leafs.
Vesa Toskala gave up two early goals, but stopped 25-of-27 shots overall in the win.
"I think we did a great job in the second and third period," Blake said. "Getting pucks deep and lots of shots on net. We played a good solid defense, it was a good solid win."
Matt Cooke and Bill Thomas had a goal apiece for Pittsburgh, which has lost two of three, but, despite the loss, did see defenseman Sergei Gonchar return. Gonchar was cleared to return to the lineup Wednesday after missing the entire season thus far after shoulder surgery. A four-time All-Star, Gonchar recorded 12 goals and 53 assists in 78 games last season to finish second among all defensemen in scoring, and added one goal and 13 assists in the playoffs.
"I feel okay," Gonchar said. "It's going to take a while before I get my timing back."
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury allowed all six goals on 41 shots in the loss.
The Penguins took a 2-0 lead after the first period, but Antropov got Toronto on the scoreboard with 7:07 left in the middle period.
Blake then quickly put the Leafs in front with two backhanded rebound scores in a 19-second span in the third period, with the first coming 55 seconds in.
Blake almost added a third goal for the natural hat trick, when he got the puck in front of the crease and Fleury was prone toward the left side of the net. Blake skated right and sent a backhander on net, but Fleury snatched the puck out of the air with a diving glove save.
"It was a great save, that's all I can say," Blake said. "I thought I had a wide-open net."
Despite the save, Toronto continued to pour on the goals and turn the game into a blowout. Mitchell rifled a shot past Fleury's glove at 7:13 as the goaltender scrambled to get back into position.
The Maple Leafs made it 5-2 with 6:42 left, after Antropov got the puck in his defensive zone. He raced up-ice on an odd-man rush, skated to the top of the right circle and sent a pass to Stajan, who sent the puck right back. Antropov blasted a shot on net, and Ponikarovsky was there to stuff in the rebound.
Stajan completed the scoring with 4:08 on the clock, when his blast hit off Fleury's left arm and went into the net.
"We sat back too much, coming out in the second period," Cooke said. "We were giving them good angles to shoot, letting them go deep. As a team we have to realize we only have 26 games left [including Saturday's game]. Time is running out. We've got to win some games, now, before there's no time left."
While Fleury was porous between the pipes in the third period, Toskala looked like he might be in line for another rough game. The Leafs' goaltender gave up four goals on 12 shots in Thursday's 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay, and was pulled before the end of the first period.
A similar scenario unfolded Saturday, as Cooke pushed a rebound in net only 1:23 into the game, and Thomas notched a shorthanded goal at 8:34.
But Toskala held on for the rest of the period, and stopped all 16 shots he saw in the final two frames to help secure the Leafs' win.
Toronto won the season series with Pittsburgh, 3-1-0...Dominic Moore had two assists for the Leafs...The Penguins visit the Islanders on Monday...Toronto hosts Buffalo on Tuesday.
02/14 22:31:45 ET