The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for more of the same and the Toronto Maple Leafs are simply looking for more when the teams play the second half of a home-and-home series Thursday at Scotiabank Arena. Thursday's Penguins vs Maple Leafs odds have the home team slightly favored on the moneyline.
Penguins vs Maple Leafs odds
|Date||Thursday, Feb. 20|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
|Penguins vs Maple Leafs odds – moneyline||Maple Leafs -120, Penguins +100|
|Penguins vs Maple Leafs odds – over/under||Over 6.5 goals (-115), Under 6.5 (-105)|
The Penguins received goals from five players and were as efficient as the Maple Leafs were mistake-prone Tuesday in a 5-2 Pittsburgh win.
The Penguins jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division with the victory, supplanting the Washington Capitals, who had led the division since Oct. 19.
What might be disconcerting to the Maple Leafs is that Tuesday’s game was just another night, albeit a good one, at the office for Pittsburgh. At least according to one of the stars of that game.
“Just executing well and taking what they give us, and making sure when we got the looks, putting them in the net,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had a goal and three assists Tuesday, giving him seven goals and 24 points in 13 games since returning from a core muscle injury that required surgery.
“Just everyone’s contributing, and our work ethic and urgency has been there every night. We give ourselves a chance when we have that. I feel like there are still areas we can improve on, but I think the way everyone’s getting involved, and the work ethic sets the tone, and that’s been there.”
Especially so for Crosby, who has played a part in 10 of his team’s past 15 goals.
“I think he’s getting better with every game that he’s playing,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think this is his favorite time of year also. He tends to play his best when the stakes get high.”
Pittsburgh dominated on special teams, going 3-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. That included snuffing 1:19 of a Toronto five-on-three power play.
The Penguins have at least one power play goal in five straight games.
“Hopefully, we can get a little confidence and get a little traction with it,” Sullivan said of his team’s power play.
The Penguins played Tuesday without center and leading scorer Evgeni Malkin, who was ill. He didn't practice Wednesday but was expected to travel to Toronto with the hope he will play.
The Maple Leafs made a minor deal Wednesday, sending forward Mason Marchment to Florida for forward Denis Malgin.
Toronto’s loss Tuesday was the second in a row by the same score — a 5-2 setback Sunday against Buffalo was stinging — and left the Maple Leafs searching.
Coach Sheldon Keefe, asked about the process of his team regaining confidence and moving forward, was succinct.
“It looks like the process that we want to go through is to just get embarrassed enough to the point where we just look in the mirror and recognize what’s required for us to be able to compete at a high level at this stage of the season,” Keefe said.
“It’s been a little bit different (issue) each night. If you had special teams on your bingo card of things that are hurting our group, then you’re happy (Tuesday) to get that one filled. … The common denominator is the overall (lack of) urgency and competitiveness of the group.”
The Maple Leafs turned the puck over consistently Tuesday. They got a little bit of a pushback with two goals in the latter stages of the second period after the Penguins had taken a 5-0 lead, but it was but a glimpse of what Toronto wanted to do.
“We have the same team coming into our building, and it’s a chance for us to show that we don’t like what happened (in Pittsburgh),” Keefe said. “We get a chance to really show what our character is all about, and do that on home ice against this very same team.”
The fact that it’s the Penguins might not be all that helpful.
“I don't think we've played this poorly since the last time we were in this building,” Toronto’s Auston Matthews said.
That was a 6-1 Penguins win at PPG Paints Arena Nov. 16, a performance that helped convince the Maple Leafs to fire coach Mike Babcock four days later.
Matthews has three goals over the past four games and 43 total. The team seems to be on a mission to get him to 50.
“We’re all very aware of what he’s at and what number we want to get him to,” said linemate Mitch Marner. “We have a lot of games left, so hope we can get to that number. For us, it’s trying to make sure we don’t try to overdo it with the passing, but at the same time we know he can score, so we’re not afraid to get it in his hands.”
It seems likely that Toronto will start Jack Campbell in goal after Frederik Andersen gave up five goals on 24 shots Tuesday without being pulled.
It’s less clear with the Penguins. Tristan Jarry made 34 saves Tuesday in winning his fourth straight start, but the team has been giving Jarry and Matt Murray fairly equal time. Murray, who is 7-1-1 in his past nine starts, could well take his turn in net.