PITTSBURGH – The last thing the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to do was go to overtime. Ian White made sure they didn’t have to.
White scored with 1:22 to play – 53 seconds after Pittsburgh tied it for the third time – and the Maple Leafs held on for a 4-3 victory over the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night.
White beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a slap shot from the right point to give Toronto – 1-9 in overtime this season – only its second win in its past seven games. The defenceman has eight goals this season, three in the last four games
“I think we kept a quiet confidence after (Pittsburgh’s tying goal),” White said. “We didn’t get deflated – and that’s a pretty deflating time to get one scored against you. But we kept on pushing, had a couple more hard shifts, and it paid off.”
Lee Stempniak had a goal and two assists, and Luke Schenn and Jason Blake also scored for the Maple Leafs, who gained at least a point for the fourth time in five games.
Mike Rupp tied it with 2:15 to play, and Matt Cooke and Sidney Crosby also scored for the Penguins, who lost in regulation for only the third time since Nov. 27.
Three of the Maple Leafs’ four goals came off shots from the point – either directly or off a rebound. Toronto has gotten 18 goals this season from the six defencemen in uniform Sunday, and Tomas Kaberle ranks second among NHL defencemen with 35 points.
“Obviously getting some traffic to the net was paramount for us tonight against Fleury,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
Penguins-killer Blake scored his 25th goal and 48th point in 48 games against Pittsburgh – the most versus any NHL team – a wrist shot from the slot that beat Fleury with 4:53 to go in the second.
Blake also scored in an overtime loss to Montreal on Saturday night.
A 20-year-old defenceman, Schenn opened the scoring 2:28 into the contest with his first of the season and third of his career. His shot from the right point found its way through traffic and appeared to deflect off Penguins defenceman Jay McKee into the net.
“Scoring the first goal, I think, was huge for us,” Wilson said. “I don’t think Pittsburgh had their ‘A’ game, but neither did we.”
After Cooke tied it 2:31 later with an unassisted goal, his seventh, Stempniak gave the Maple Leafs the second of their four leads when Kaberle’s shot from the right point bounced around in front of the net and popped to him and he tucked it into the net for his 10th.
Blake’s goal appeared as if it would hold up until Rupp’s 10th, a tap-in from beside the net after reigning league scoring champion Malkin worked to get the puck behind the net and swooped to the faceoff circle before feeding Rupp.
“We showed resiliency,” White said. “We were pretty desperate for a win here. We kept battling back, and so did they. This was our second game in two nights, but we found a way.”
Usually, a team on the back end of a back-to-back games situation is at a disadvantage on the road against a fresher team, but the Penguins looked lethargic after the league-mandated two-day holiday break.
“I think our execution wasn’t there, and that’s pretty typical when you come back from a break and we were playing a team who had already played and had their legs under them a little bit,” Crosby said. “We worked hard, but it seems like we just couldn’t execute the way we needed to.”
Crosby scored his eighth power-play goal of the season 7:48 into the second with a nifty individual effort. He took the puck from right wing corner, stickhandled past Schenn to get all the way to the left goal-line. His shot banked off the near post and the back of goalie Vesa Toskala’s skates, with Schenn unintentionally kicking it in for Crosby’s 23rd of the season.
Making his first appearance in five games, Toskala made 21 saves to win for the first time since Dec. 14.
Pittsburgh’s 24 shots were tied for its second-least this season.
“Skating-wise, I don’t know how our legs feel; usually we don’t feel great after a break, but it was the puck management and the execution that was not up to our standard,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Notes: Nine years ago to the day Sunday was Mario Lemieux’s comeback game from his first retirement, also against Toronto. Lemieux, already inducted into the Hall of Fame and the owner of the team by that point, had a goal and two assists in Pittsburgh’s 5-0 win over the Maple Leafs. … Maple Leafs LW Alexei Ponikarovsky had two assists.