PITTSBURGH -- Clarke Wilm needed only one shift last night to make his own judgement about the Sidney Crosby hype.
The Penguins' boy wonder broke through the middle on his first shift, eluded Wilm's coverage to take a pass and narrowly miss burying a backhand on Mikael Tellqvist.
Wilm also was in the vicinity when Crosby out-dueled Tomas Kaberle for a puck and stickhandled from his knees across the crease to Michel Ouellet for a third-period goal.
"He's the real deal," Wilm said after the Leafs' 3-2 overtime win. "He works hard, sees the ice great and does a lot of things that skilled players do."
Yet the Leafs were able to contain him most of the night -- and not in the traditional Pat Quinn, power-on-power line matchup.
The visiting Leafs employed Mats Sundin, Wilm, John Pohl and Kyle Wellwood, limiting Crosby to one power-play assist in 23:22 of action, five shots and a 47% success rate on faceoffs
"I wasn't really trying to match, but they seemed to want their veterans against Sundin's line," Quinn said. "They had the last change so I just thought I'd wait it out. With some of our young guys (Wellwood and Pohl), we need to find out how they will do in that situation."
Marlies sniper Pohl, who was almost asleep Monday night when he got the call to meet the Leafs at the airport, got into a wrestling match with Crosby behind the Leafs net.
Crosby also crossed paths with Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle a few times.
"He's a shorter guy (5-foot-11), so you have to be careful, because he can go underneath you a little bit on the side," Kaberle said. "He's very fast and he goes to the net all the time, which is why he draws the penalties."
In addition to his face being plastered on every hockey publication and in all sports sections this season, Crosby's mug has been featured in magazines such as GQ and he has been on The Tonight Show.
So every checker in the National Hockey League, from the tiniest twerps to the brawniest bashers, has no problem identifying the key to the Pens' offence. But none are likely to cut 'the future of hockey' any slack in his rookie season.
"Last time I checked, I didn't think he was Mario Lemieux," said Leafs winger Wade Belak before last night's game.
"The only way you're going to stop guys like that is by body checking them."