PITTSBURGH -- Wednesday's Thanksgiving Eve game was a feast for the fans at CONSOL Energy Center, as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in a shootout. Regulation play served as the main course as the Penguins ate away at a three-goal Toronto lead, eventually tying the game late in the third. However, the shootout proved to be the desert as the NHL's leading scorer, captain Sidney Crosby, netted the winner.
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin tallied twice in regulation and once in the shootout to power the Penguins to victory as well. Speaking of power, the Penguins took full advantage of their power-play opportunities, tallying a trio of man-advantage goals.
"I thought we did some good things for parts of the game, but obviously against a team like that you give them an inch and they're going to take it all," said Toronto left winger James van Riemsdyk, who recorded two goals in the losing effort.
The Penguins got the scoring started when two recent call-ups, center Andrew Ebbett and right winger Chris Conner, connected just 1:57 into the contest. Ebbett threw a pass through the legs of Toronto defenseman Cody Franson onto the tape of a wide-open Conner at the top of the crease. Connor placed his shot just under the crossbar for his first of the season. Ebbett picked up the primary assist for his first point as a member of the Penguins.
At 5:09 of the first period, and just eight seconds into their first power-play opportunity, Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf blasted a shot from the left point that was masterfully deflected down and through the five hole of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury by van Riemsdyk, who was left unattended in front to tie the game at 1.
With just over eight minutes left in the first stanza, the Maple Leafs grabbed their first lead of the game when center Nazem Kadri broke down the right wing and beat Fleury through his blocker, off the right post and in. Fleury either didn't see the shot or was confident that the shot was going to go wide because he never went down in an attempt to stop it.
Toronto continued the scoring just 13 seconds into the second period when van Riemsdyk picked off Fleury's attempted backhand pass to defenseman Kris Letang and deposited it into the unoccupied net.
That was enough for Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, as he pulled Fleury in favor of Jeff Zatkoff. However, the result was the same. Just 29 seconds later, center Phil Kessel beat Zatkoff on the first shot he faced -- a hard wrist shot just underneath the crossbar.
The Penguins began to claw back into the game with a power-play marker of their own when Malkin one-timed a Letang pass over the shoulder of Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier at 8:27 of the second.
"(Malkin) was dominant," said Crosby. "That line was generating a lot."
The Penguins' third goal came at 15:20 of the second when they struck again with the man advantage. This time it was Letang firing a slap shot from the left point that snuck just inside the left post to pull the Penguins within one, 4-3.
Just when it appeared that the Penguins had all of the momentum, they allowed yet another late-period goal in what has been an Achilles' heel for them this season. With just five seconds left in the second, van Riemsdyk threw a rather ordinary shot on goal that slid off Zatkoff's left pad and toward the post, where the puck briefly sat before center Tyler Bozak rushed in and poked it over the goal line to give the Maple Leafs a 5-3 lead heading into the second intermission.
"Even though we gave up a goal there again fairly easily at the end of the second period, we felt like we were going to get opportunities to get back in the game and we did," said Bylsma.
The Penguins took flight in the third period, outshooting the Maple Leafs 17-0 and tallying twice to complete their improbable comeback. The first tally came at 3:46 of the period when Neal blasted a shot from the right-wing circle over the left shoulder of Bernier while working on a five-on-three.
The fifth and tying goal came via a hard drive to the net by Crosby, taking the defense with him. This allowed Malkin to swoop in and whack away at the loose puck in the crease until it found its way under Bernier at the 7:41 mark.
"We received the whole third period," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle. "We didn't skate, we didn't forecheck, we didn't establish much."
Zatkoff earned his third victory, making 11 saves in relief, while Bernier suffered the loss, turning aside 43 of Pittsburgh's 48 shots.
"I think that you saw a very resilient Pittsburgh Penguins team tonight," said Zatkoff.
NOTES: The Buffalo Sabres claimed former Penguins RW Matt D'Agostini off waivers Wednesday. ... Toronto RW Colton Orr played in his 200th game in a Maple Leafs uniform. ... Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin was named the NHL's First Star for the week ending Nov. 24. During the week, he recorded one goal and seven assists in Pittsburgh's four contests. ... Going into Wednesday's play, Toronto ranked 28th in the NHL in shots against per game, allowing an average of more than 35 per game. ... Scratches for the Penguins were C Zach Sill and D Robert Bortuzzo. Scratches for the Maple Leafs were RW Joffrey Lupul (groin), LW Frazer McLaren, and D Jake Gardiner. ... The official attendance was 18,660, Pittsburgh's 300th consecutive sellout. The sellout streak began on Feb. 14, 2007.