Pens Fall to Leafs In Home Opener


Mar 9, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) tries to position himself in front of Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) as defenseman Michael Kostka (53) tries to push him out at the Air Canada Centre. The Penguins beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins failed to keep their undefeated season going, as they fell in their home opener 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The match started to get good when Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr went toe-to-toe with Pens defenseman Deryk Engelland, 5:58 into the first period.

Blow after blow being exchanged, the bout lasted over a minute, only to have Engelland leave to the locker room and toughing it out to come back into the game with a welted eye.  The fans were ignited and the “Let’s Go Pens,” chants had become more powerful.

Evgeni Malkin then gave Pittsburgh the lead 1-0 heading into the second period.  A series of goals were exchanged between the teams, including Sidney Crosby scoring his first of the season, and the game was eventually all square at two a piece.

From then on the game belonged to Toronto.

Scoring another three goals, the Toronto Maple Leafs upset the once undefeated Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Pens now fall to 2-1 on the season, but still remain atop the Atlantic Division.

Two main reasons as to why the Pens failed at winning last night–penalties and rebounds.

Penalties cost Pittsburgh big time.  The Penguins committed 10 of them.  Even though the team was able to kill off seven of the eight Maple Leaf power-plays, the timing of the penalties definitely disrupted the Pens flow.

Some of the calls that were made were questionable.  This isn’t to say that the officiating was the reason the Pens lost, but there just were a few debatable calls.  Most specifically a couple boarding calls.

Understanding the NHL’s wish to protect the players more because of last year’s concussion epidemic, the calls might be a little tighter this year.  Expect the game to crack down on the head shots.

The Maple Leafs owned the crease though.  When Toronto scored their first two goals, they were right there in the goal area to tip it home.  So controlling the second chance opportunities was difficult for the Penguins to maintain.

You could also say that turnovers were a problem.  One of the obvious turnovers that stood out was Malkin’s, in which he made a questionable own-zone cross ice pass that resulted in James van Riemsdyk tallying his second goal of the period.  It also gave Toronto a lead they would never give up.

If the Pens expect to win, they have to first and foremost stop landing in the box.

We saw last night, and really last playoffs, what really can defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins–that’s penalties.  When things don’t start going Pittsburgh’s way–emotions start to swirl.  And when tempers start to flare, the Pens lose all their synch.

They’ve started the season off well, but let’s see consistency.  It’s nice to get to a comfortable place, let’s not act satisfied.

So far, almost every team in the NHL has had a busted game.  Maybe the Pens just experienced that and this game can take a pass.  But striving for perfection from here on out is inevitable.

Next game is Friday in Winnipeg against the Jets at 8 p.m.