The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped a 5-4 decision in a shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night. It was just the third time in the 2013 season that the Leafs have lost two games in a row. Although they came out on the wrong end of the score line, Toronto showed some fight late to at least salvage an important point. This was Toronto’s first shootout of the season and they never even made it to the third shot, as James Neal and Sidney Crosby promptly scored, while Marc-Andre Fleury made two stops.
Toronto did a decent job of containing the Penguins top guns as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for just two points, but other Pittsburgh skaters picked up the slack. Neal, Paul Martin, and Kris Letang combined for six points to carry the Penguins to victory.
Here a few things that stood out from the game.
Phaneuf had a strong game with three assists, but it was the way he got them, especially the first two, that was most impressive. Typically Phaneuf loves to hammer the puck on net from the point, which isn’t always a good thing. Tonight he showed that a little patience when you have the extra man can pay off. On his first two helpers, Phaneuf drew a penalty killer towards him and then calmly slid the puck over to Phil Kessel on the side boards. From there Kessel used his space to create goals for James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson.
Hot and Cold James Reimer
There were a couple of goals in this one that I’m sure Reimer would like to have back, but if not for some key saves late in the third and overtime then the Leafs probably don’t even make it to the shootout. Pittsburgh out-shot Toronto 41-26 and Reimer looked uncomfortable on a few saves, but fought through it to give the Leafs a chance. He still doesn’t look quite as strong as he did before his knee injury.
The Leafs had more blocked shots in this one, but the Penguins seemed to have made the more crucial ones. There were more than half-a-dozen times in the third period when the Leafs were pressing for the tie and Pittsburgh was able to block attempts on net. Part of the credit certainly goes to the Penguins for their effort, but Toronto’s shot selection has to get better. Unless you are confident you can get it through, making an extra pass or changing the angle on your attempt is a smart move.
This was a rare occasion where the team that won the special teams battle lost the game. Toronto went 2-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. Keeping the dangerous Penguin power play at bay was impressive, and Toronto’s effort with the man advantage really ignited the Leaf offense.