Gonchar had a goal and two assists, including one on Malkin’s goal, while Crosby added three assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins scored three power-play goals to down Toronto 4-1 and halt a five-game losing streak.
Crosby ended a two-game pointless streak by assisting on three goals, giving him an NHL-leading 58 points in 34 games and 26 points in December. Crosby, 19, has had only one streak of three games without a point since coming into the league last season.
The Maple Leafs, with former Penguin Jean-Sebastien Aubin in goal, lost here for the first time in eight games since Nov. 1, 2001, mostly because they gave Pittsburgh 10 power-play chances.
“We just can’t stay out of the penalty box,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said.
The Penguins have scored five power-play goals in two games since breaking out of a 2-for-35 slump with the man advantage.
Or, as in the case of Gonchar’s sixth goal, a two-man advantage. With Bryan McCabe and Mats Sundin off after drawing penalties 16 seconds apart, Gonchar blasted a shot from the point in off Aubin’s blocker. It was Gonchar’s first goal and first point since his two-goal, five-point game Dec. 13 against Philadelphia.
“They’ve got a great power play, and if you give them a bunch of chances they’re going to put it in,” Aubin said. “They’ve got a bunch of good players, and they make plays.”
The Maple Leafs, playing without forward Darcy Tucker (bruised foot), lost their fourth in five games despite Sundin’s 16th goal – the only one of 31 shots to get past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Sundin’s 36th goal in 47 career games against Pittsburgh was the 512th of his career, tying him with Gil Perreault for 31st place in NHL history.
Gonchar’s goal came less than a minute in the third period and made it 2-1. About six minutes later, with Pittsburgh on another power play, Gonchar faked a slapshot and passed to Malkin, who scored his 18th goal of the year.
“We made it a goal to shoot more (on the power play), because when you shooting you’re creating a lot of scoring chances,” Gonchar said. “I talked to the coach (Michel Therrien) and that’s what we concentrated on.
“He told me to put the puck on the net more and that’s my goal from now on.”
Sundin was unhappy with the hooking call given him, but said that didn’t explain Toronto’s 13 penalties or why the Leafs are ranked 22nd in penalty killing.
“The call on me was not a penalty, I was reaching for the puck,” Sundin said of his hooking penalty. “That being said, you can’t commit that many penalties.
“I thought we played a good game 5-on-5, but when you take that many penalties, even if you play well 5-om-5, they’re going to score 5-on-3 or 5-on-4.”
And they did. Erik Christensen had given Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead for the second game in a row, this time in the final minute of the first period with a shot from along the goal-line off Crosby’s pass.
“We had to play 60 minutes, too, and we did tonight,” Crosby said. “We hadn’t played 60 minutes in a long time and that was our focus, take it a period at a time.
“It made a difference because every period we were playing intense and playing physical. And those are fun games to win.”
Pittsburgh will go into the new year with a 16-15-6 record, the latest in a season it has been above .500 since last making the playoffs in 2000-01.
Notes: Toronto had won nine of its last 10 against Pittsburgh . . . Fleury had been 0-2-1 in four career games against Toronto . . . Sundin has six goals and eight assists in his last nine games . . . Aubin, who played from Pittsburgh from 1998 to 2004, won his only previous start against his former team . . . The Maple Leafs swept the four-game season series against Pittsburgh last season . . . Penguins F Nils Ekman left early in the game with a possibly severe elbow injury. His condition was not immediately updated.