Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pens v Leafs (L 2-4)

Wow. I'm still trying to recover from the whirlwind day I had yesterday. I really wanted to recap last night's game, but since I didn't get to it until just before the start of today's game, I figured it would be a moot point. My apologies for not following through with my promise of a decent recap and the special post, but hopefully you all understand. :) By the way, I'll be posting part one of the special post tomorrow afternoon...

I'm a genius. For some reason I thought tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs started at 7:30pm Eastern, so I ended up missing the first seven minutes of the game. By the time I got back to my house and turned the TV on, the Leafs were on the power play and Mark Bell had already scored the first goal. Pens 0, Leafs 1. The Leafs didn't score on that power play, though. Then, the Saint got a great chance for a shot on goal, but goaltender Vesa Toskala made a nice poke check on Sid to deny him the chance to tie the game. Erik Christensen set up a few nice plays for Evgeni Malkin, but Malkin just couldn't find the back of the net. Staffan Kronwall blasted a shot on Pens goaltender Dany Sabourin, but Sabou stopped the shot. It became painfully clear to me that the only Penguin bringing his A-game to Toronto was our own title man. The rest of the team lacked desire. It may be a loooong night...

Sir Sidney is shown during the pregame warmup.

Later, Sid tried to get a wrap around goal, but he was blocked by Toskala when he put his left pad in the way. Later, Darryl Sydor had his helmet knocked off during a small scrum that did not result in any penalties. Toronto almost scored a fluky goal when the puck was dumped into the Penguins zone, hit a linesman, and took a weird bounce right towards the goal. Luckily, Sabou was paying attention and stopped the puck from going in the net.

Gary Roberts took a bad penalty for roughing when he was pushed from behind into a Leaf. He wasn't happy about it and didn't keep that fact a secret. He barked at the ref so much that he was given an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Just a short time later, Bryan McCabe interfered with Sid to even things up for a 4 on 4. Technically, Sid should have gotten a penalty shot for that instead of the power play, but whatever. Seconds later, however, Malkin put the Leafs back on the advantage when he got called for tripping. The first period would end with the Leafs leading by a goal.

During the intermission, FSN Pittsburgh showed a clip of Maxime Talbot playing a prank on 14,000 Maple Leafs fans at this morning's practice. At the urging of Marc-Andre Fleury, he donned the captain's #87 jersey, a helmet, and even grabbed Sid's stick and headed out to the ice. The crowd went wild for Pseudo Sid. "It felt awesome to be the best player in the world for two minutes," Talbot said. You can read about the prank on Special thanks to Friend of The Show Mike H. for sending in that link. He was really on the ball for that one - he sent me that link early this afternoon, only about an hour after that article was published! :)

That's not who you think it is... (Click to enlarge)

The second period started with Malkin, Roberts, and McCabe all still in their respective sin bins. McCabe's penalty ended which gave the Leafs just under 20 seconds of 5 on 3. Bell almost got goal number 2 when he had a chance on an open net in front of Sabou; however, he inexplicably decided to try to shuffle it over the goal line instead of hammering it home which gave Sabou chance to block the goal. A few minutes later, both teams were at even strength when Malkin made a horrible decision to pass the puck to Eaton while they were rushing the net. The pass was too hard, so Eaton couldn't gain possession. Kyle Wellwood gathered up the puck and took it the other way with Jason Blake at his side for a 2 on 0. It could have been a 3 on 0 had McCabe decided to join the rush. It pretty much was a given that the Leafs would score; the only question was who would score. It was Blake. Leafs 2, Pens 0.

Matt Stajan took a penalty for holding on Sid. The Pens did not score on the advantage. A few minutes after the Stajan penalty ended, Toskala took a penalty when he kicked his leg out and tripped Sid following a good rush by Sid. He crashed hard into the boards, and he went to the bench in obvious pain. When the replay was shown in slow motion, it was apparent that Toskala tripped him on purpose. Bell served the penalty for Toskala. During the power play, Roberts was going wild. One of his shots on goal hit the crossbar. Then something happened and Roberts and McCabe both got penalties. Sid came back out to the ice, but the Pens didn't score on this power play either.

Jordan Staal got called for interference following an apparent miscommunication that had Sabou out of the net with a Maple Leaf player bearing down on the wide open net. Just after the Leafs' power play started, Adam Hall lost his stick. He would be without one for nearly one minute. The Leafs didn't score on that 5 on 3½ but Nik Antropov registered a power play goal on the very next play. For some reason, the War Room in Toronto was called, but it was clearly a goal and (of course) it stood.
Leafs 3, Pens still at 0. McCabe took a holding penalty, but the Pens didn't score. The second period ended with the Leafs holding a commanding 3 goal lead.

He can't win it all by himself.

The third period started with Sid going nuts. He was trying to make something happen, but he was working alone. He wasn't getting any support from his team. On his next shift, he got control of the puck and rushed on goal. He ended up taking the puck to the left side of Toskala. He controlled the puck in the corner and then lost his stick.
Then we got a chance to see why Sidney is regarded as the best player on the ice today: During the nearly nine seconds without his stick, Sid managed to maintain possession of the puck using his feet and the boards until he could safely pick up his stick which he then used to pass the puck to Army. Even though that play didn't result in a goal, it was one of the best plays of the game.

Jarrko Ruutu went to the box for goaltender interference. During the ensuing power play, Malkin got a great shorthanded chance, but Toskala made the initial save. Malkin got his own rebound and took another shot that Toskala was again able to block. Just a few moments later, Malone got a shorthanded breakaway chance, but Toskala stood his ground and denied the birthday boy (Malone turned 28 today). Ruutu's penalty ended with the Pens dominating the Leafs' power play.

Sid battles Blake for control of the puck.

The Pens are just now playing with the same desire they played with last night against the Stars, and it may be too little, too late. Later, Colby Armstrong read a Leafs pass beautifully and stole the puck. He carried it towards Toskala with Malone not far behind. Army took the initial shot and the rebound bounced off Malone's leg as he rushed the net. The Pens finally scored. The War Room was called for the second time tonight, but it was perfectly clear that Malone did not kick it. Pens 1, Leafs 3.

The Pens got a HUGE opportunity when they got a power play. Christensen shot the puck on goal and, on a lucky bounce, it went up and over Toskala's shoulder to cut the Leafs' lead down to a goal. Pens 2, Leafs 3. The Pens had just 2 minutes to tie the game. They pulled Sabou. Malone had a FANTASTIC chance to tie it up when Mats Sundin won the faceoff but, in doing so, sent the puck in front of Toskala. Malone was right there and tried to chip it over the goal line, but Toskala just would not budge. The Leafs got control of the puck, and Alexei Ponikarovsky blasted the puck down the ice directly into the empty net. Pens 2, Leafs 4. The clocked ticked away the rest of the third period. The period ended with a scrum between the teams, and the Leafs would take both points. Despite the Leafs' four goals, it should be noted that Sabou made 37 saves to McDonald's Player of the Game Vesa Toskala's 30 saves. The Pens next meet Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes on Monday.


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