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Sunday March 28, 2010 11:02 pm

Penguins struggle to steal win from Leafs




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: NHL, Playoffs,

Crosby & MalkinIt took the defending Stanley Cup champions to bring the Leafs down. Toronto is playing way out of its league this month, having taken nine of their last 13 games, and they’ve been doing it competitively. Eight of their nine wins have come either in overtime or a shootout. The only other was a 6-4 win against last-place Edmonton. Sunday evening’s 5-4 shootout loss to Pittsburgh is the latest sign that while 2009-10 is a write-off for the lackluster Leafs, some minor offseason tweaks and improvements might bode well for Toronto, and poorly for the rest of the league.

The Maple Leafs have been looking for contributions from the entire lineup during March. Against Pittsburgh alone, Colton Orr scored his third goal of the season – a career high, while Phil Kessel netted his team-high 30th tally. Nine different Maple Leafs recorded a point against Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, while at the other end of the ice, rookie Jonas Gustavsson allowed four goals on 45 shots as his consecutive wins streak was halted at seven.

The Penguins showed a lot of weakness against Toronto, who was just five for 16 in the second of back-to-back games this season, and Pittsburgh had to go to a shootout to drop them. It took a Herculean effort by Sidney Crosby to put his team on his shoulders as his pair of second period goals kept his team relevant and his shootout winner sealed the win for just the second time in Pittsburgh’s last eight extra-time games.

Toronto gets to play spoiler for the remainder of the season as their last six games, with the exception of Buffalo, are against the teams seeded sixth-through-tenth in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh however holds on to a tight two-point lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. In head-to-head action, the Penguins is 0-6 against the Devils and have been outscored 22-5. While the Leafs try to climb out of the depths of the East as they try to de-value the first-round pick they gave to Boston last summer for Kessel’s services, the Penguins perhaps have a little bit more to worry about as the season comes to a close.

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