PITTSBURGH - Dominik Kahun and the Pittsburgh Penguins are stepping up in the absence of injured captain Sidney Crosby and several other key stars.
Kahun scored two goals and the Penguins routed the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 on Saturday night.
“It’s always tough when guys like (Crosby) don’t play, but we have enough good guys here,” Kahun said. “I think we showed that we can be a very good team. We just played solid.”
Kahun matched a career-high with three points, and 10 Penguins recorded points in the win. Bryan Rust also had a three-point game, with a short-handed goal and two assists.
Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin each had a goal and an assist, and Jared McCann also recorded his 100th NHL point with a goal for the Penguins, who bounced back from Friday’s 2-1 loss at New Jersey. The Penguins have won three of their last seven games, and have points in seven of their last nine games.
Tristan Jarry made 32 saves for Pittsburgh. Jarry has allowed two or fewer goals in four of five outings.
Jason Spezza scored his second for Toronto. The Maple Leafs lost their fifth straight, their longest skid of the season.
Kasimir Kaskisuo stopped 31 shots for Toronto in his NHL debut.
“I thought we were good until they scored,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Then they took over and they were way better than us. There’s no reason for us to look the way we did tonight.”
Pittsburgh played without several key regulars, including Crosby, who is expected to miss at least six weeks after undergoing successful core muscle surgery on Thursday. Forward Patric Hornqvist missed his sixth game, D Kris Letang sat out his fifth and F Nick Bjugstad also missed after leaving Friday’s loss at New Jersey.
Pittsburgh is 98-55-21 in 174 games without Crosby since the beginning of the 2005-06 season. In 123 games without Crosby, Malkin has 67 goals and 163 points. He has 327 goals and 848 points in 738 games with Crosby.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan believes Malkin’s confidence is growing.
“Usually everybody in the rink can hear it when he wants it,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s an indication of how invested he is into the game. When he’s feeling it, he tends to be vocal.”
Guentzel opened the scoring for Pittsburgh with a power-play goal at 6:38 of the first period.
The Penguins had been 1 for 31 with one power-play goal in their previous 13 games prior to Guentzel’s goal. It was their first home power-play goal since Oct. 10, against Anaheim, a 3 for 37 stretch.
Malkin gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead 2:06 later. Guentzel set up Malkin in the slot and he beat Kaskisuo to the glove side with a wrist shot.
“It’s nice to get out on top early,” Guentzel said. “For us to get those goals and kind of build on that was huge.”
Kahun scored 52 seconds into the second period, giving Pittsburgh a three-goal lead.
Kahun scored his second goal less than four minutes later following a coach’s challenge. Leafs’ defenceman Jake Muzzin tripped Penguins forward Brandon Tanev, sending him crashing into Kaskisuo prior to Kahun’s shot into a partially open net. It was initially ruled no goal, but Pittsburgh challenged and the play was reversed.
Sullivan believed it was a key moment that led to the lopsided final.
“If it’s a successful challenge, it’s 4-0, but if it’s not, it’s 3-0 and we put a real good power play on the power play,” Sullivan said. “It’s potentially a two-goal swing with a lot of hockey left. I just felt strongly that it was a trip.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh put Crosby on injured reserve and recalled Joseph Blandisi from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis. ... Sullivan said before the game Letang and Hornqvist have been skating. ... Maple Leafs F Trevor Moore did not play after leaving Friday’s game against Boston with a shoulder injury. ... Malkin recorded his 18th multi-point game against the Maple Leafs. In 38 games against Toronto, he has 22 goals and 64 points. ... The Penguins have won 10 of their last 14 home games against Toronto. ... Pittsburgh has points in seven of its last eight overall at home. ... Rust has two goals and seven points in his last five games against Toronto. ... The Penguins have killed 20 straight penalties and 26 of their last 27. They have not allowed a power-play goal in nine games.
Maple Leafs: Continue a season-long six-game trip Tuesday at Vegas.
Penguins: Host the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
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