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Pittsburgh at Toronto

Maple Leafs score six straight to spoil Gonchar's return to Penguins

CBSSports.com wire reports
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TORONTO -- The best statement about the current predicament facing the Pittsburgh Penguins came from a player who wasn't even interviewed.

Evgeni Malkin sat in the visiting locker room with his head in his hands long after his teammates had already taken their equipment off and headed for the showers Saturday night. There was no need to ask the NHL's scoring leader how he felt.

These Penguins, after all, were supposed to be a desperate team chasing a playoff spot. Instead, they only looked to be in a desperate situation after blowing a two-goal lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs and losing 6-2.

Pittsburgh has just one road win since Dec. 26 and remains five points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's up to the players," coach Michel Therrien said. "There's a price to pay to win games on the road and right now we're having a hard time staying focused and executing."

They were certainly facing a susceptible opponent.

The Maple Leafs entered the game as one of the NHL's worst teams on home ice and were returning from a miserable road trip. On top of that, Pittsburgh scored two goals on its first three shots and had the home fans booing goalie Vesa Toskala.

But then, without warning, the momentum disappeared.

"Our focus wasn't there," said defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who returned from a shoulder injury for his first game of the season. "We didn't play well in the second and third. In the NHL nowadays you cannot do it. You're not going to win any hockey games, it doesn't matter who you're playing. The focus has to be there for 60 minutes."

Pittsburgh actually took a 2-1 lead into the third period before Jason Blake quickly turned the tables in Toronto's favor. He scored goals 19 seconds apart, giving his team the lead for good and bringing the building to life.

The winner was Blake's 21st of the season and will be shown on a few highlight reels. He spun and brought the puck from his backhand to his forehand before sliding it behind Marc-Andre Fleury.

Even though that was the decisive moment, Blake felt the game changed earlier on.

"I thought we did a great job in the second period," Blake said. "We got pucks deep, we had our skating legs, we forechecked well, we had a lot of shots on net. Overall, I thought it was a great team effort and Vesa played great.

"It was just a good win tonight."

Nik Antropov, John Mitchell, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan also had goals for Toronto. Matt Cooke and Bill Thomas replied for the Penguins (27-25-5).

It's going to be an uphill climb for Pittsburgh. The defending Eastern Conference champions have to finish 16-9 just to reach 91 points -- and that total hasn't been good enough to qualify for the playoffs any year since the lockout.

"Every point is very important and we need them," Gonchar said. "There's not that much time left, we have to focus on every single point. Pretty much every single turnover can cost us the season."

Notes

  • AHL callup Boyd Devereaux was a healthy scratch for Toronto.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko returned to Pittsburgh's lineup after missing 15 games because of a broken right hand.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Jason Blake gives it a bit of a slide after scoring two goals in 19 seconds. (US Presswire)
Jason Blake gives it a bit of a slide after scoring two goals in 19 seconds. (US Presswire)
Scoreboard
Pittsburgh (27-25-5)2002
Toronto  (21-25-10) «0156
Three Stars
J. Blake
TOR


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
D. Moore
TOR


Goals: 0
Assist(s): 2
N. Antropov
TOR


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 2

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Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
01:23Matt Cooke (8), Wrist Shot. Assist: Malkin, Letang
08:34Short - Bill Thomas (2), Slap Shot. Assist: Staal
2ND PERIOD
12:53Nik Antropov (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: Finger, Stajan
3RD PERIOD
55.0Jason Blake (20), Backhand Shot. Assist: White, Moore
01:14Jason Blake (21), Wrist Shot. Assist: Moore
07:13John Mitchell (4), Snap Shot. Assist: Kulemin, Grabovski
13:18Alexei Ponikarovsky (17), Backhand Shot. Assist: Antropov, Stajan
15:52Matt Stajan (13), Slap Shot. Assist: Ponikarovsky, Antropov
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
02:06Whitney, 2 min, Tripping
07:33Orpik, 2 min, Interference
12:22Godard, 2 min, Roughing
12:22Frogren, 2 min, Roughing
18:01May, 2 min, Roughing
2ND PERIOD
10:51Staal, 2 min, Roughing
3RD PERIOD
05:03Eaton, 2 min, Hooking
08:28Mitchell, 2 min, High-Sticking
Shots On Goal
 123T
Pittsburgh1151127
Toronto12141541
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Marc-Andre Fleury60:00356
Vesa Toskala59:57252
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Pittsburgh0-for-2
Toronto0-for-4
Game Information
Attendance - 19365
Referees - Chris Lee, Kevin Pollock
Linesmen - Greg Devorski, Derek Nansen
 
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