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WHAT AN EMBARRASSMENT: Short-handed Penguins march over listless Leafs 7-1

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Sheldon Keefe saved believing his first full coaching camp as coach would get the Maple Leafs correctly wired to begin a protracted 82-game season.

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Six video games in, there was a significant disconnect between the coach, his unproductive stars and even the foot troopers. A horrible 48 hours ended with a 7-1 Saturday night time slaughter in Pittsburgh, an undermanned dwelling facet leaping on the listless Leafs.

It adopted a 5-3 loss to San Jose and dropped Toronto’s file to 2-3-1. Keefe sat first line proper winger Nick Ritchie on Friday, however expanded the canine home to incorporate Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, breaking them up in Saturday’s closing interval.

Keefe – and TV viewers – have been getting whiplash because the Leafs dedicated varied turnovers and the Pens rapidly buried them on the different finish, 5 on Jack Campbell, two on reliever Michael Hutchinson, together with the primary shot of the second interval. Goaltending was a particular weak hyperlink within the back-to-back defeats.

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The Penguins, now with a mark of 3-0-2, additionally improved to 34-15-8 with out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of their lineup. Toronto was seeking to capitalize with out that duo plus Kris Letang out of motion, however have been outworked in key areas that led to a few dangerous bounce objectives. Drew O’Connor had two objectives instead of Pittsburgh’s icons, with Marcus Pettersson having a three-point night time. Evan Rodrigues, who wound up centring the highest line, had an influence play purpose.

Toronto allowed seven second-period objectives on this woeful weekend, however truly began Saturday’s with good strain from the primary two strains in a 1-1 sport, solely to see Pittsburgh bury two in 15 seconds. Campbell, spared from dealing with Crosby and Malkin in his first profession begin towards Pittsburgh, was too sluggish to push off on defenceman Mike Matheson’s wraparound. A impartial zone mistake then arrange an odd-man rush, with Jason Zucker tipping Danton Heinen’s feed previous Campbell.

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Keefe referred to as a timeout after that, trying extra encouraging than enraged and started mixing up his strains once more, together with one shift along with his three finest shot producing centres, Matthews, John Tavares and Jason Spezza.

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That had little impact as O’Connor potted his second with the Leafs again peddling after their second missed energy play and Pettersson making it 5-1. It was Kasperi Kapanen’s first sport towards his outdated staff and he collected an help on Matheson’s purpose.

An ominous begin started with a few Leafs’ own-zone gaffes, a excessive stick on Tavares that wasn’t referred to as and a cross test away from play by Spezza that was. Pittsburgh then struck first, successful a draw towards the league’s prime faceoff staff, holding it in after which getting a deflection off O’Connor.

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Simply because the night time earlier than, it was Spezza’s line that rapidly acquired that again. He, Wayne Simmonds and Pierre Engvall swarmed the online, Spezza taking a puck off his chest and finally jamming it previous Tristan Jarry. It was level No. 974 for Spezza and gave him sole possession of 97th place in league historical past, breaking a tie with one time Leaf and Penguin Andy Bathgate. Simmonds dropped the gloves with Brian Boyle late within the misplaced trigger.

The Leafs’ struggling snipers ought to have been taking the cue from Spezza and Tavares from Saturday, the veterans’ objectives from working their option to the slot and planting there. Ondrej Kase acquired his from blocking a shot and racing off on a breakaway.

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Matthews had a drive off the submit, however final 12 months’s Rocket Richard Trophy winner stays pointless after his third sport again from wrist surgical procedure. The larger concern is Marner shut out by means of all six video games to date and exhibiting solely transient flashes of effectiveness and taking a nasty offensive zone penalty so as to add to the second interval collapse.

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A greater energy play may have modified the narrative early, but it surely was 0-for-3 and attending to be a damaged file. The night time earlier than Keefe groused that the primary unit specifically “wasn’t on the identical web page, combating it, not executing … plenty of the identical stuff we noticed final 12 months, to be sincere.”

Fairly disturbing, given the eye paid to it in low season and the way a lot Keefe and assistant coach Spencer Carbery dedicated to maximizing their stars’ potential. Simply one other downside to ponder earlier than the subsequent sport on the journey, Monday in Carolina. It’s an excellent probability they’ll face former goalie Frederik Andersen, who improved to 4-0-0 on Saturday with a win over Columbus.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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