|TOR||0||3||2||(0 - 0)||5|
|PIT||1||1||0||(0 - 0)||2|
Not with forward James Neal picking up right where he left off during his career season a year ago. Not with No. 2 goaltender Tomas Vokoun looking very much like the reliable backup Pittsburgh envisioned when it traded for him last spring.
Sure, it was just a 30-hour stretch in a season that even at 48 games will include some ups and downs. And while coach Dan Bylsma is quick to warn about the dangers of reading too much into emphatic road victories over Philadelphia and the New York Rangers, the fact is the Penguins appear to be very much as good as advertised heading into Wednesday night's home opener against Toronto.
"To be able to get back-to-back wins (and be) four points up on the Rangers with that win, that's two good road wins for our team," Bylsma said.
A victory over the Maple Leafs (1-1-0) would give Pittsburgh its first 3-0-0 start since the 1994-95 season, when the Penguins won 12 of their first 13 games.
Though it's still early, the Penguins are playing with a cohesion Bylsma wasn't sure would surface so soon following an all-too-brief training camp. Given a week to get ready for the regular season, Bylsma didn't have time to get a real feel for things, and instead focused on situational hockey like power play and penalty kill while hoping everything else would take care of itself.
Consider it done.
Even the new guys - the few that have stuck on one of the NHL's most stable rosters - have found a way to fit in quickly.
Forward Tanner Glass dropped the gloves with Arron Asham following the opening faceoff in Sunday's 6-3 win over New York. Glass acquitted himself quite nicely against one of the league's tougher fighters and the jolt it sent through the Pittsburgh bench helped the Penguins take a quick lead on Neal's first goal less than two minutes later.
"We wanted to get Tanner Glass for a reason," Bylsma said. "He's a physical guy. He can skate well for what he does but he's also a grit and sandpaper guy for our lineup. The first two games, he had a number of physical plays. He had hits in the Philly game and then he steps up at the beginning of the game in New York and sets us up right off the hop."
Even beleaguered defenseman Paul Martin is off to a quick start. The veteran was a focal point of the team's defensive issues at the end of last season, but he keyed a handful of critical penalty kills in the third period against the Flyers and added a goal against the Rangers.
The special teams haven't been too bad either. Pittsburgh converted 4 of 8 power plays over the weekend and killed eight of nine penalties. The only rough spot came in the third period against the Rangers, when things got a little loose after the Penguins took a 5-1 lead. New York drew within 5-3 before the Penguins settled down, the kind of hiccups Pittsburgh knows it needs to avoid.
Still, figuring out how to nurse a big lead over a rival on the road is a pretty good problem to have. So is wondering when Crosby and Malkin will find the back of the net. Not that they haven't been busy. Malkin already has four assists in two games while Crosby collected his first helper Sunday.
Crosby has 17 goals in 22 career games against Toronto and Malkin has scored nine times in 20 matchups, but they may find it difficult to score with the Leafs being stingy so far this season.
Toronto opened with a 2-1 win at Montreal on Saturday before falling 2-1 to Buffalo in its first home game Monday.
The Leafs finished with one power-play goal in seven attempts and were 0 for 2 with a two-man advantage against the Sabres.
"I didn't think there was any lack of effort with our group," coach Randy Carlyle said. "I thought we were out of sorts in the first period and it showed in the execution of our power play."
These teams split four matchups last season, and Pittsburgh has won three straight and eight of 12 at home in the series.
|Mar 14 '13||PIT 3 at TOR 1||P. Dupuis|
|Mar 09 '13||PIT 5 at TOR 4 - SO||J. Neal|
|Jan 23 '13||TOR 5 at PIT 2||J. van Riemsdyk|
|J. van Riemsdyk||3||2||1||3||+2||6||0||1|