'Beast mode' Malkin helps Penguins down Maple Leafs 4-2 in Hall of Fame game

TORONTO — Evgeni Malkin went off early before his Penguins locked it down late.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, had no answer — and no choice other than to quickly turn the page.

Malkin had a goal and an assist to set the stage for Brock McGinn's winner less than two minutes into the third period Friday as Pittsburgh beat Toronto 4-2.

Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel, into an empty net, provided the rest of the offence for the Penguins (6-6-2).

Casey DeSmith made 28 stops for Pittsburgh, which won its second straight following a seven-game slide.

Malkin, who was annoyed after taking two penalties in the first before finding the back of the net late in the period, now has 67 career points (24 goals, 43 assists) in just 41 games against Toronto.

"He was in beast mode," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "He was a threat all night long.

"When he plays the game like we've all grown accustomed to watching him over the years, the puck just follows him around."

William Nylander and Zach Aston-Reese replied for the Leafs (7-5-3), which got 19 saves from Erik Kallgren.

"A clinic by the Pittsburgh Penguins in terms of how they defended," Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said of the third. "We were on the wall a lot, but couldn't find our way through that.

"That's really the difference in the game."

The NHL's annual Hall of Fame game saw members of this year's class — including Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Daniel Alfredsson and the late Herb Carnegie — honoured before puck drop.

Henrik Sedin is also set to be enshrined Monday, but is recovering from a bout of COVID-19 and wasn't in attendance.

The Penguins snapped a 2-2 tie at 1:54 of the third when McGinn fired a shot that went through Toronto defenceman Mark Giordano's legs and Kallgren's five-hole for his third goal of the season.

"See it late and it goes in," said the disappointed netminder. "Gotta save that one."

"Not good enough by me," he added. "Just not good enough. Feel bad for the team."

The Leafs pulled the Swede with under two minutes left in regulation, but Guentzel iced it into an empty net.

Kallgreen has been pressed into service with both Matt Murray (groin/abductor) and Ilya Samsonov (knee) out injured. Murray is inching closer to a return, but Keefe said he won't be available Saturday when the Leafs host Vancouver.

That means either Kallgren or rookie Keith Petruzelli, who hasn't played a minute in the NHL, will get the nod in the second of a back-to-back.

"He's been playing really well," Nylander said of Kallgren. "He should keep his head up. We've got to be better in front of him."

Toronto opened the scoring at 13:49 of the first when Aston-Reese, who spent parts of five seasons in Pittsburgh, was quickest to a rebound to swat his second past DeSmith.

"It's just awkward,” Aston-Reese said of facing former teammates. "Kind of like going to dinner with your ex-girlfriend."

The Leafs appeared poised to take that lead to the intermission, but Malkin scored his sixth after Auston Matthews couldn't clear the defensive zone.

Chad Ruhwedel's point shot hit Toronto defenceman T.J. Brodie in front and fell kindly to Malkin for him to bury the equalizer.

Pittsburgh then went ahead 68 seconds into the second to close out a chaotic shift.

Leafs wingers Mitch Marner and Alexander Kerfoot couldn't connect on a 2-on-0 break before the puck went the other way, with Malkin finding Zucker on a no-look pass to fire home his fourth.

Toronto responded on its third power play late in the period when Nylander, who hit the post earlier in the man advantage, pumped a one-timer for his sixth off a nice fake from Morgan Rielly at 17:17.

Keefe said a key for his team moving forward is better play at 5-on-5 for a team that's hasn't been as connected in its last two contests when contrasted against a recent three-game winning streak.

"Sequences are ending too quickly," he said. "We're at our best when we get second, third, fourth opportunities to play on offence.

"We haven't had enough of those as a team."

The Penguins had plenty to say about that Friday.

SALMING SALUTE

Leafs great Borje Salming, who's battling ALS, received a huge ovation during an emotional pre-game ceremony honouring this year's Hall of Fame inductees.

Diagnosed in the summer with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig's disease — the former defenceman was flanked by fellow franchise icons Darryl Sittler and Mats Sundin.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Sittler raised Salming's arm so he could wave to the crowd.

"He was the first (Swede) to make his way over and lead the way with his toughness and being a leader," Nylander said. "He represents a lot of Swedes, and he's done a tremendous job.

"It's just so sad seeing him go through what he's going through."

UP NEXT

Leafs: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Penguins: Visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2022.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press