Greg McKegg, a returnee from last year’s Rookie Tournament, scored a third period goal and added two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs won their second straight game this weekend, 5-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh fell to 0-2 in Oshawa. McKegg, 19, scored 49 goals and 92 points for the Erie Otters of the OHL last season and appeared in two games with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL.
Pittsburgh opened the game with a quick goal 13 seconds after the opening faceoff when centre Zach Sill who sat out the first game yesterday afternoon, dumped the puck in. Linemate Brandon DeFazio found it near the net and rammed it into the goal past Toronto netminder Garret Sparks for the abrupt 1-0 lead.
It was classic Penguins’ hockey in the opening third of the first period as the Pens effectively maintained consistent offensive zone time through hard forechecking and their puck possession system. Momentum started to swing when rugged Jamie Devane found Josh Leivo behind the Pittsburgh defence. Leivo unleashed a hard wrist shot but Pittsburgh goaltender Maxime Lagace was able to blocker the puck away.
About one minute later, the Leafs raced 2-on-2 into the Pens’ zone. As defenceman Joe Morrow fell down at the left of the net, his partner Philip Samuelsson had his pocket picked by McKegg who whipped the puck in front to Josh Nicholls whose goal tied the game at 7:47. McKegg earned a second assist midway through the period when he fired a cross-crease laser to Mitchell Heard during a 4-on-3 power play. Heard waited patiently, then fired the puck to the far corner behind Lagace to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead. Toronto was successful at controlling the tempo of the second half of the period and was successful at winning puck battles below the Pittsburgh goal line.
The second period was frustrating for the Pens but not for lack of effort. They continued to establish a good forecheck and cycled the puck well, winning many battles in the corners but could not solve Sparks. Toronto increased its lead to 3-1 when David Broll passed to Sam Carrick who cut across the crease from the left boards and flipped the puck by Lagace’s left pad. Three minutes later, Pittsburgh had two good chances to score when Tom Kuhnhackl and Joe Morrow skated into the Leafs’ zone 2-on-1. Kuhnhackl elected to shoot but Sparks kept the puck out. Moments later, Paul Thompson got the puck alone in the slot but his backhand attempt was stopped.
Later Brian Gibbons was absolutely robbed on a toe save by Sparks when a tap-in attempt looked like a sure goal. With two minutes left in the period, Morrow’s centre-point shot was deflected high by Sparks’ trapper.
The Leafs iced it in the third period when McKegg scored his third point and first goal of the night after receiving a stretch pass. He sped by Pittsburgh defenceman Joe Morrow then deked Lagace and tucked a low backhand into the net to make it 4-1. With about 2 1/2 minutes left, Tyler Brenner scored a gift goal when the puck skipped through Morrow’s legs at the Pens’ blue line. Brenner scooped up the puck and slipped it under Lagace to complete the victory.
About the Author: Adrian Fung (@PenguinsMarch) contributes game reports, opinions, analysis and features, mostly about the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has covered the World Hockey Summit, Kraft Hockeyville, World Junior Championship exhibition games, CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, MasterCard Memorial Cup and NHL Rookie Tournament for Hockey Independent. twitter.com/PenguinsMarch