Maatta’s third-period goal leads Penguins past Maple Leafs
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Olli Maatta has played five seasons with Evgeni Malkin and he’s not sure he’s ever seen his teammate play as well as he is right now.
Maatta scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and Malkin had three points to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
“Every time he’s is on the ice, he’s scary, but I feel like this season, he’s really taken it to another level,” Maatta said of Malkin. “It feels like every time he has the puck something is going to happen.”
Malkin had a goal and two assists to top 900 points for his career, becoming the sixth Russian-born and the fourth player in team history to reach the milestone. Malkin, a former Hart, Art Ross and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has 19 goals and 33 points in his last 20 games.
“I’ve played here so long,” Malkin said of his 900th point. “I’ve played with great teammates and great linemates. It’s amazing to be here. I enjoy it every day.”
Bryan Rust, Zach Aston-Reese and Carl Hagelin also scored for the Penguins, who have won 11 straight at home and four in a row overall. Pittsburgh’s home streak is its longest since a franchise-record 13-game run during the 2013-14 season, and dates back to a 4-0 loss against Carolina on Jan. 4.
Matt Murray made 29 saves for the win, extending his streak without a regulation loss to nine decisions. He also tied Jean-Sebastien Aubin for fifth on the team’s all-time wins list with 63.
Maatta gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead at 7:56 of the third with a slap shot that beat Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen to the blocker side.
Rust sealed the win with his ninth with 3 1/2 minutes remaining to give the Penguins their ninth win in the last 11.
“We’re just trying to stay focused on the task at hand,” Murray said. “If we take care of our business and do what we need to do, we’re going to have a good chance to win night in and night out.”
Patrick Marleau, Connor Brown and Tyler Bozak scored for the Maple Leafs, who snapped a five-game winning streak and lost for just the second time in 11 games. Andersen finished with 34 saves.
“We were close to winning, but sometimes you’re going to get the short end of the stick,” Andersen said. It’s positive that we’re playing well, but we have to keep working.”
Hagelin scored the game’s first goal on a re-directed pass off the rush for his seventh 3 1/2 minutes in, and Brown tied it when he beat Murray to the blocker side with a one-timer for his 13th a little more than three minutes later.
Bozak gave Toronto the lead with his ninth midway through the period when he converted a rebound from the top of the crease and Malkin tied it 1:11 later with his 33rd of the season and point No. 900.
Aston-Reese put Pittsburgh in front at 5:21 of the second period when he settled a rebound in front and pushed it past Andersen’s outstretched left pad for his third goal in three games.
Marleau tied it 3-3 with a power-play goal from between the circles for his 20th with 4:14 remaining in the second.
Maatta provided the game-winner in the third and Murray helped the Penguins pick up another win at home.
“You never want to give up the lead or give teams a chance to get back into it, and we’ve been doing a good job at that, especially when we get the lead,” Murray said. “It was a pretty even game for the most part, but I think we outplayed them in the third, and that turned out to be the difference.”
NOTES: Toronto’s Zach Hyman left midway through the third period after Maatta pushed him into the end boards. ... The Penguins’ home win streak is tied for the third-longest in team history. ... Malkin has a point in seven straight home games. ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby’s 10-game home point streak ended. ... Pittsburgh D Justin Schultz missed Saturday’s game because of illness. Matt Hunwick took Schultz’s spot after missing the previous nine games. ... Penguins F Patric Hornqvist missed his seventh straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Penguins F Jake Guentzel played in his 100th NHL game.
Maple Leafs: At Detroit on Sunday.
Penguins: At Columbus on Sunday to open a three-game road trip.