Leafs woes continue on the road with a 6-1 demolition in Pittsburg

Eduardo Harari
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Sunday, November 17, 2019


TORONTO. – The Maple Leafs had hopped that a trip away from the comfort of home would give them the confidence and change of direction to break the 0 -5 slump.

Babcock is facing this road trip with many dilemmas including who can play in the net and provide Andersen a break deeply needed. So, he went to Kasimir Kaskisuo for help. Babcock had mentioned that he would hope his rookie goalkeeper would face some shots early in the contest to get his butterflies out of the way.

The cameras caught his mother, Minna, getting emotional when he was introduced before the game. His wife and daughter were among those who made the trip as well.

It got nasty at PPG Paints Arena as Kasimir Kaskisuo faced 14 shots in the opening 12 minutes of his first career NHL start. The score was 2-0 at the first intermission.

“There’s always ups and downs,” said Kaskisuo. “You just try to develop day by day and look at the end goal.”

“I mean everybody would probably lie if they said they didn’t doubt it at some point, but the belief that I can someday get here is stronger than that,” he said. “That [drives] you forward every day and been encouraging that. It’s got me here.”

 The Penguins actually scored the first goal in a hockey game, something they hadn’t done since Oct. 29 when they blitzed the Philadelphia Flyers.

The new top line, with Evgeni Malkin between Rust and Jake Guentzel, set the tone. Those three fired nine of their 19 first-period shots on goal.

Guentzel was the one who got the opening goal 6:38 into the game, quieting the visiting fans who loudly chanted “Go Leafs, Go!” Late in a power play, Guentzel whacked a rebound off the post and in after goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo kicked his right pad out to stop Alex Galchenyuk. 

Malkin pushed the Penguins lead to 2-0 with just over 11 minutes left in the first period. Malkin corralled an off-target pass from Guentzel with his skate, hardly breaking stride. He snapped a shot from the slot under Kaskisuo’s glove. 

The game was completely out of reach at 5-0 before it was even half over. 

Dominik Kahun scored twice in the first five minutes of the second period. His second goal was fired into an open net after Jake Muzzin swept the leg of Brandon Tanev, sending him into Kaskisuo.

“I think it’s funny. [Tanev] made an unbelievable play there, went to the net. Obviously, he got tripped there and the puck went to me. My job wasn’t that hard,” Kahun said. “We were a little upset when they said no goal.”

After screaming at them for a bit, Sullivan challenged the call, arguing that Muzzin’s premeditated trip caused the interference. The NHL’s off-site situation room agreed with Sullivan.

Jared McCann scored his seventh of the season later in the period to make it 5-0.

Jason Spezza scored late in the second to spoil Jarry’s shutout bid, Rust tapped in a Teddy Blueger pass for a short-handed goal that made it 6-1 in the third. The Penguins killed that penalty then another one, making it 20 straight.

Toronto who played without Marner (ankle), Kerfoot (surgery) and Moore (Shoulder) couldn’t utilize them as an escape cause of their performance.

The Penguins were also playing for the second consecutive night and have Sidney Crosby and a few others currently on the disabled list.

“There was no reason for us to look the way we did tonight,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “They played last night, we played last night. They’ve got some injuries; we’ve got some injuries. A level playing field.

“The bottom line is they were better than us.”

When Babcock was asked about what changes need to be made so the team gets better soon, he replied “That’s a good question. We are going to get on that flight — it’s four and a half hours, if I’m not mistaken — and by the time I am off, I’ll probably have some answers. The reality is and the number one thing is we’ve got to play harder and for longer. As soon as something goes bad, you can’t stop playing. For every one of us in our lives, things go bad. Dig in.”

The Leafs are in their worst five-game stretch since before Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander helped turn around the fortunes of the franchise.

They hadn’t dropped five-straight games since Feb. 23 to March 3, 2017 and only managed to pick up 3 loser points during that slide in Matthews and Marner’s rookie season. They’ve only grabbed one while going 0-4-1 over the last eight days.

“It’s tough to get worse from here. It’s frustrating,” Matthews told reporters. “I think in the locker-room, confidence isn’t exactly high right now. I don’t think we’ve played to the ability that we’re capable of over the last course of games. We’ve got nobody to blame except for ourselves.”