PITTSBURGH (AP) — John Tavares scored his 400th goal, Matt Murray made 34 saves in his return to Pittsburgh and the Toronto Maple Leafs raced by the Penguins 5-2 on Tuesday night.
Tavares added an assist on the night he became the 107th player in NHL history to reach 400 goals. The 14-year veteran beat Casey DeSmith from the slot 12:04 into the first period, part of an early surge by the Maple Leafs that pushed them to their fifth win in seven games.
Murray, who won Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, held his ground in the second period after Pittsburgh trimmed an early three-goal deficit to one, buying Toronto time to eventually pull away.
Michael Bunting had two goals and an assist for Toronto. Mitchell Marner extended his points streak to 10 games with his fourth goal of the season. William Nylander added an empty-net goal to seal it.
Sidney Crosby and Rickard Rakell scored for the Penguins but Pittsburgh couldn’t sustain the momentum from a successful three-game trip in which they earned five of possible six points to end an early season skid.
DeSmith stopped 28 shots and had little help in front of him on a night Toronto had little trouble finding open space, sometimes right in front of the Pittsburgh net.
Two of Toronto’s goals came from inside the blue paint, including Bunting’s second goal with 50 seconds left in the second period on a play in which he simply camped to DeSmith’s right and was in the perfect position to slam home a rebound with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang fruitlessly trying to cross-check him out of the way.
Toronto’s other two goals came with players basically unchecked in the slot. Tavares briefly found himself unguarded high in the slot in the first period and Crosby closed too late. Bunting’s first goal came on a 2-on-1 just 11 seconds into the second period as the Penguins briefly found themselves on their heels.
A deflection by Rakell and a pretty backhand by Crosby against his old teammate in a 1:44 span early in the second drew Pittsburgh within 3-2 but Murray — attempting to kickstart his career after two underwhelming seasons with the rebuilding Senators — stood his ground and the Maple Leafs pulled away.
NOTES: Tavares is the fifth player to reach 400 goals while wearing a Maple Leafs sweater. Hall of Famer Mats Sundin hit 400 goals on Oct. 14, 2002, also against the Penguins. … Marner has three goals and 11 assists during his points streak.
Maple Leafs: Begin a three-game homestand Thursday night against New Jersey.
Penguins: Finish up a grueling stretch of 13 out of 17 on the road with three games in four days starting in Minnesota on Thursday night.
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