Maple Leafs respond to poor showings with big win over Pens

Ross Houston
February 21, 2020

They complete a home-and-home set with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, TSN4, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV) after a 5-2 loss at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday. "Our guys have a lot of pride in themselves, a lot of pride in the jersey and the organization". "The way we competed in battles and the competitiveness we showed all over the ice was what we needed".

The team's next opportunity to answer that question comes Saturday night when Toronto hosts the Carolina Hurricanes, another team who is in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

It's only one game, but Toronto delivered.

Those sequences, he suggested, were a symptom of a more troubling issue that has developed in recent weeks: A general decline in the Penguins' overall defensive play.

The Leafs, who woke up Thursday out of the playoffs with 21 games left on the schedule, came in 7-8-3 over their last 18 - with just four 60-minute victories over that span - following a 15-4-1 start to Keefe's tenure after he replaced Mike Babcock on November 20.

Keefe said he expects to learn something about his team Thursday, and pointed to the response his group had in early December after getting thumped.

Andersen is 0-3-0 since returning from a neck injury that sidelined him four games, posting an ugly.835 save percentage and a 4.42 goals-against average.

"We have to go back to work", Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "The first thing we have to do is recognize it, and then you have to pay attention to details".

"We've just got to find that energy, that bite, that jam that we had tonight and be able to bring that on a consistent basis", center Alex Kerfoot said.

"We knew they were going to bring their best", Murray said.

William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto (32-22-8), which moved back into third place in the Atlantic Division.

The difference in Toronto's play in Tuesday night's 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh compared to their victory in the back half of the home-and-home series versus the Pens was Jekyll and Hyde-like.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Tavares, his Toronto counterpart, jawed at each other after a scrum that saw Hornqvist land on Andersen, and the two continued the conversation as the teams headed off for the second intermission. "But the best teams do it the most often".

"I think everyone responded the right way", Muzzin said.

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