TORONTO – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the NHL's road warriors.
Crosby and James Neal scored shootout goals to give Pittsburgh an exciting 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night for their league-leading 11th road victory.
Neal opened the shootout by beating James Reimer before Crosby sealed the victory by scoring on Pittsburgh's second attempt after Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Toronto's Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri. The Leafs' Phil Kessel forced overtime with his seventh of the season at 15:40 of the third, thrilling the Air Canada Centre gathering of 19,418.
“I thought we played a really good game,” Crosby said. “I thought we did some really good things.
“It's a fun building, a fun atmosphere. We didn't want to let them get back into the game . . . but they pushed hard and kept coming.”
Crosby also scored in regulation for Pittsburgh (17-8-0) in his first appearance at the ACC in over three years. The Penguins' captain extended his points streak to a season-high seven games (five goals, 10 assists).
Neal, Beau Bennett and Pascal Dupuis had the other goals for Pittsburgh, which led 3-1 after the first period and outshot Toronto 41-26. Special-teams figured prominently in the game as the Penguins were 0-for-4 on the power play while the Leafs finished 2-for-3.
“It was certainly a big factor in the game,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We get two power-play goals on us rather quickly in this game . . . It's definitely a big part of where we're at right now.”
James van Riemsdyk, Cody Franson and Clarke MacArthur also scored for Toronto (15-10-1) while captain Dion Phaneuf added three assists.
“We had a little bit of a slow start, we kind of got caught standing around and watching them a little too much,” Phaneuf said. “We recognized that during the intermission and went after them.
“It was huge to come back and get that point but we definitely would've liked to have two.''
The loss was Reimer's first in seven starts and while he stopped 37 shots, Reimer fought the puck early. Heading into the shootout, Reimer was eager to make good on his chance for redemption.
“There were a couple of goals I didn't want to have go in,” he said. “When you can get to a shootout and get a point, you kind of have a chance to redeem yourself and that's when you want to step up and be big for your teammates.
“That wasn't the case and that's what I'm most frustrated about. We battled back hard enough as a team and I had a chance to be there for the boys and wasn't able to do it.''
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said neither his goaltender nor his two shooters were at ease in the shootout.
“I didn't think we looked very comfortable going in there on (Fleury) and our goalie didn't look very comfortable in the shootout either,” he said. “We're playing good teams and when you play good teams you make mistakes but they made mistakes as well.
“We scored four goals and when you score four goals we think you should win the game. We didn't do enough on the defensive side of the puck to give ourselves the best chance.''
Crosby, the Penguins' captain who leads the NHL in scoring with 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists), skated at the ACC for the first time since Jan. 9, 2010. In 11 career visits here, Crosby has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) and extended his points streak versus Toronto to eight games.
The 25-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., has excelled against Toronto, having registered 38 points (19 goals, 19 assists) in 24 career games.
Pittsburgh outshot Toronto 13-5 in the first and wasted little time opening the scoring as Neal registered his 16th of the season just 36 seconds in. Matt Niskanen's point shot was partially blocked but the puck dribbled into the slot, where Neal fired a shot past Reimer.
Van Riemsdyk tied it at 7:14 on the power play with his 14th goal but Crosby and Bennett combined to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead. Crosby registered his 12th goal at 14:31 after Reimer couldn't control Kris Letang's shot, allowing Letang to get the rebound back to Crosby. Bennett scored his second of the season at 15:21.
Franson's second of the year pulled Toronto to within one on the power play at 10:12 of the second with Crosby off for tripping. Dupuis put Pittsburgh ahead 4-2 at 13:01 with his ninth but MacArthur made it 4-3 a minute later with his seventh.
NOTES—Forward Matt Frattin returned to Toronto's lineup after missing 12 games with a knee injury . . . Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin drew an assist on Bennett's goal, giving him points in nine of 11 career visits to the ACC. But Malkin suffered an upper-body injury in the third and didn't play in overtime . . . Toronto came into Saturday's game leading the NHL in hits (773) and fighting majors (25) . . . The Penguins return to the ACC to face the Leafs on Thursday night . . . Crosby entered action Saturday averaging 1.63 points per game, the NHL's best mark since Penguins owner Mario Lemieux (1.77 points per game) in 2000-'01.