PITTSBURGH (AP) — Evgeni Malkin picked up his first two-goal game in more than 18 months and added the game-winner in the shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied past the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 on Wednesday night.
Chris Conner, Kris Letang and James Neal also scored for Pittsburgh, which erased 4-1 and 5-3 deficits. Sidney Crosby added two assists to lift his point total to a league-leading 33 and scored in the second round of the shootout against Jonathan Bernier before Malkin finished it off.
Jeff Zatkoff stopped 11 of 13 shots after replacing ineffective starter Marc-Andre Fleury less than a minute into the second period.
James van Riemsdyk scored twice and added an assist for the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri also scored for Toronto, but the Maple Leafs lost their way after taking a big lead.
Toronto failed to record a single shot in the third period or overtime.
There were no such problems for the Penguins, who fired a season-high 48 shots at Bernier. The goaltender made 43 stops, but went just 1 for 3 in the shootout.
The Penguins have won 12 straight games against goaltenders making their first career starts against Pittsburgh.
It’s a streak that appeared in jeopardy when Bozak put the Maple Leafs ahead 5-3 with 5 seconds left in the second period by tapping a lazy rebound by Zatkoff.
Instead, it proved to be the last sign of offense from Toronto. Pittsburgh’s decimated defense, which lost star Paul Martin for 4 to 6 weeks earlier in the day with a fractured leg, clamped down and let Malkin, Crosby and their teammates go to work.
Neal’s sixth goal in his past five games pulled Pittsburgh within 5-4 at 3:46 of the third and Malkin tied it less than four minutes later when he stood in front of the crease and nudged a scrambling Bernier into the net then tucked the puck under the sprawled goaltender.
Toronto managed to extend the game to overtime but was no match against Zatkoff, a rookie, in the shootout. Zatkoff stuffed Bozak and David Clarkson in the first two rounds, and after Crosby easily beat Bernier to give the Penguins the advantage, Malkin wrapped up the comeback by firing a wrist shot over the exhausted goaltender’s right arm.
Conner, called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League early Wednesday after the Penguins placed forwards Beau Bennett and Tanner Glass on injured reserve, needed just 1:57 to score his first NHL goal since last April. He took a crossing pass from Andrew Ebbett to slam the puck past Bernier and give Pittsburgh a quick 1-0 lead.
Though the Penguins kept buzzing, the Maple Leafs counterpunched effectively. Van Riemsdyk deflected a Dion Phaneuf shot to tie the game and Kadri tapped in a rebound at the end of a three-on-one break to give Toronto the lead 11:41 into the first period.
Things only got worse for Fleury, who failed to clear the puck behind the net, instead feeding it directly to van Riemsdyk, who pushed it across the goal to make it 3-1 just 13 seconds into the second period. That was all for Fleury, stopped just eight of the 11 shots he faced.
Zatkoff didn’t exactly settle in quietly. Another Pittsburgh turnover allowed Bozak to set up a wide-open Kessel for a one-time that pushed Toronto’s lead to 4-1 just 29 seconds after Fleury skated to the bench.
Pittsburgh drew within a goal as Malkin and Letang scored on consecutive power plays, but the hard work evaporated in the final moments of the second as Zatkoff failed to control a rebound on a van Riemsdyk slap shot and the puck just sat in the crease for Bozak to tap in with just 5 seconds remaining in one of the weirder 20 minutes of the season for both teams.
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