Maple Leafs vs. Penguins Preview
(AP) – The Toronto Maple Leafs played 14 games before picking up their second win last season, but they went 2 for 2 on home ice last week.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are still waiting to give their new arena a proper opening.
The Maple Leafs look to begin a season with three straight victories for the first time in more than a decade Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins try to avoid dropping a third consecutive game in the NHL’s newest building.
Toronto (2-0-0) opened the 2009-10 season eight straight losses, a woeful start for a team that went on to finish in the Eastern Conference basement.
Through two games this season, the Maple Leafs already have accomplished what it took until Nov. 6 to do a year ago – win twice. Toronto held off Montreal 3-2 in its season opener at Air Canada Centre on Thursday, then outshot visiting Ottawa 38-18 in a dominant 5-1 victory Saturday.
“The enthusiasm’s a lot better,” coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve got better balance to our team.”
That balance has been most evident up front, where Phil Kessel, Tim Brent and Clarke MacArthur have each scored two goals. In addition, the Leafs’ penalty kill – which at 74.7 percent in each of the past two seasons was the league’s worst in 15 years – has gone 7 for 7 through two games.
“I think it’s just a collective effort,” Brent said. “We have a lot of fun together and I think it shows on the ice. Guys are willing to stick up for each other, everybody’s so happy for each other when they have success. I think that kind of carries over to team success.”
Toronto hasn’t opened with three victories since 1999-2000 – the last time it won the Northeast Division.
The Penguins (1-2-0) are hoping to avoid a third defeat in as many games at Consol Energy Center, having lost 3-2 in the first two, but they found the road more inviting Monday.
Alex Goligoski and Mark Letestu gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead after two periods at New Jersey, and backup Brent Johnson made 30 saves in a 3-1 victory over a Devils team which dressed only 15 skaters.
“It was a good team effort,” said Goligoski, who has a point in all three games.
Sidney Crosby, whose 51 goals tied him with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead last season, has yet to find the net but perhaps facing the Maple Leafs will get him going. Crosby scored six goals in four games as Pittsburgh went 3-1-0 against Toronto in 2009-10.
The Penguins may want to keep Johnson in net considering No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is 4-4-0 with a 3.63 goals-against average in his last eight games against Toronto.
Whoever starts in goal could see a short-handed defense in front of him. Brooks Orpik missed Monday’s game with a groin injury while Zbynek Michalek left in the second period with a shoulder injury.
Their status for this game hasn’t been determined.