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Penguins look to pick up steam at expense of Maple Leafs

Sportsnaut
Nov 9, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) celebrates with Penguins right wing Josh Archibald (15) after their game against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to carry the momentum of halting a seven-game winless streak into Friday’s contest against the host Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It was the most complete game we’ve played,” said Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, who made 24 saves in the 4-1 victory that opened a three-game road trip.

The Maple Leafs are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. It completed a stiff three-game test for Toronto, which posted a 2-1 win versus Boston on Saturday and 3-1 victory over Carolina the following night.

“Three games in four nights against elite teams, and five out of six points feels good,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’ve come a long way in this little stretch. But we’ve still got a ways to go in terms of managing a game.”

The Maple Leafs are 3-0-1 in their past four games following a 1-2-2 road trip.

“You’re happy about it for sure, but we expect ourselves to be a great team and we’re not settling for anything else,” said Mitchell Marner, who recorded a goal and an assist on Tuesday.

“We expect to try and be getting those points and fighting for those points. We definitely did a great job. A little disappointed (Tuesday) giving up that third one on the power play.”

Toronto allowed Vegas to tie the game Tuesday with a short-handed goal at 11:43 of the third period.

“If you want to be an elite team, you need to be elite in managing games,” Keefe said. “You’ve got to close that game out. When we’re on a power play, you’ve got to manage the game. We expect more from them; those are all our leaders on the ice. But it was very clear that they knew it in the moment. Come for a line change, or if you’re going to stay out, do the job. We didn’t get that done.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that he had seen signs that his team was close to ending the 0-6-1 skid.

“There’s such a fine line between winning and losing,” Sullivan said. “I think it starts with one shift, one goal, one period … a power-play goal, a blocked shot, a big penalty kill. … I think it boils down to a lot of little things that add up to win games.”

Sullivan saw much to like on Wednesday.

“I just thought our stick-to-it-iveness was more consistent,” he said. “I thought we defended hard. We got a lot of sticks on pucks. I thought there was a level of urgency to our game. I thought for the most part, we managed the puck pretty well. I thought our penalty kill was much improved.”

Sullivan made a surprise move to use DeSmith in goal instead of Tristan Jarry on Wednesday.

“I thought Case had a really strong game,” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to get into the details, but we made a decision to go with Case (Wednesday), and I thought he played extremely well. He made some timely saves for us.”

Penguins defensemen Pierre-Olivier Joseph (upper body) and Jan Rutta (lower body) were injured during the game on Wednesday.

Toronto goaltender Matt Murray (groin, adductor injury), a former Penguin, could return to play Saturday versus the Vancouver Canucks. He last played on Oct. 12.

–Field Level Media