Who needs Tavares?

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:34 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Apparently, the Pittsburgh Penguins don't have a Monongahela River monopoly on young hockey talent.

The Maple Leafs ran out some of their own discoveries last night, on a day that began with a pipe dream of John Tavares riding down Bay St. on a white charger.

Led by Jiri Tlusty, the first Leafs teenager in recent memory to have a two-goal game, and a three-point game from 23-year-old Alexander Steen, Toronto smoked Sidney Crosby and Co., 5-2 at Mellon Arena.

"We've got five regulars out and may have just played the best game of our season," said coach Paul Maurice, who must have had trouble believing it himself after such a mediocre home stand that preceded it.

"There was a lot of hooting on the bench at the end. Jiri's two goals are a great story, but it's the other things he did in the game that I loved."

OFF HIS REAR

Tlusty celebrated his first NHL game with two goals 35 seconds apart in an early third-period surge.

His first one went in off his rear end and was originally credited to Steen, until Leafs general manager John Ferguson asked for a video review.

By then, Tlusty had taken Czech countryman Pavel Kubina's breakaway pass and beaten Marc-Andre Fleury, again.

"He shoot to my ass and I a little bit feel it, but I don't say nothing," Tlusty explained in broken English of his first goal.

Kicking off six road games in their next seven starts after a sluggish 3-3-2 opening to the season at home, the Leafs took advantage of a flat Pens team, perhaps too enamoured with its three-game win streak.

Fleury, who had stopped 66 of 67 shots the previous two games, was also beaten by Boyd Devereaux and Tomas Kaberle.

"We killed their energy," a jubilant Steen said of holding the dynamic Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to two points each.

"And I loved the way we turned on the jets to open the third period (outscoring Pittsburgh 4-1). We have a lot of good young players."

Maurice struck gold with Tlusty on left wing, Steen on the right and fellow 23-year-old Matt Stajan in the middle. An early 3-for-3 night penalty- killing and efficient goaltending by Vesa Toskala set the table for Toronto.

The win took a little pressure off of the embattled Ferguson, but another two points in New York tomorrow would work even better.

The Leafs had lost nine consecutive road games heading into last night, going back to early March last season.

Crosby picked up his third goal of the year -- all against the Leafs -- at 16:20 of the period. He went foraging for a Malkin rebound in the crease, fighting off Nik Antropov and pushing Toskala aside before converting.Mats Sundin continued his great start, with one assist to make it 18 points 11 games. He now has 77 points in 52 career games against Pittsburgh, his most against any NHL opponent.

"This is a game you are not allowed to lose," Pens coach Michel Therrien said, having beaten the Leafs 6-4 two weeks ago.

"We didn't compete, we didn't execute."

That sounded a lot like Maurice's complaintsat times this month, not those of a club many have picked to go deep into the playoffs.

Sundin credited the change of scenery from Toronto for part of last night's upset.

"Sometimes it's nice to get out on the road," the captain said. "It's important to get close and to bond."

With Bryan McCabe ailing, Maurice put Andy Wozniewski back on the blue line, but scratched Wade Belak to make way for Tlusty.


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