Armstrong the agitator

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 PM ET

Maybe he riled up Sidney Crosby too much.

Maybe he got under Sid the Kid’s skin to the point where an angered No. 87 took out his frustrations on the Maple Leafs.

If that’s the case, good for Colby Armstrong.

Truth be told, Crosby didn’t need any incentive for his two-goal performance in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 victory over the Leafs on Wednesday night.

Easily the hottest player in the league, such outstanding performances are becoming commonplace for him.

Having said that, credit Armstrong for getting into Crosby’s face from the get-go, finally goading the Penguins superstar into taking a retaliation penalty when the game was still scoreless in the first period.

Yes, a peeved-off Crosby would open up the scoring shortly after he left the penalty box, but that’s not the point.

What matters here is that Armstrong showed no fear of the NHL’s top player, making life difficult for Crosby in the early going.

Too bad the rest of the Leafs didn’t follow suit.

On too many nights, you have to ask yourself: “Where’s the truculence? Where is the team general manager Brian Burke promised would be “harder to play against?”

They do resemble that team when Armstrong is on the ice. When he’s not, however, life is much easier for the opposition.

Armstrong is one of the NHL’s top superpests. How many other players can suck two opponents into retaliation penalties in one period as Armstrong did to Crosby and Aaron Asham in the first?

Armstrong and Crosby were one-time linemates and road roommates with the Penguins.

Yet, once the puck dropped, Armstrong quickly showed that friendships mean absolutely nothing out on the ice.

Impervious to the blood oozing out of his nose midway through the second period, Armstrong brings heart and sandpaper to the table each and every night. It’s a recipe his teammates might want to prescribe to.

Otherwise this will, in fact, never be a “hard team to play against.”

Not so special teams

Toronto remains near the bottom of the league in penalty-killing but it was the power-play that was sloppy in this one.

How do you allow a shorthanded, two-man breakaway as the Leafs did to Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz in the second period? Dupuis made no mistake on the play in beating Jonas Gustavsson ... What’s up with the chaos on the bench? Two too-many-men-on-the-ice minors in the same game? When you have one of the worst penalty-killing units in the NHL, you can’t be taking silly penalties like this. You just can’t ... If Gustavsson keeps cracking sticks over the crossbar after allowing goals as he did twice in the second period, the team’s fine gaggle of equipment men might be forced to order twice as many goalie twigs as normal for The Monster.

Pugilists prevail

Having played less than 10 minutes in each of the previous two games, defenceman Mike Komisarek continued his penchant of coughing up the puck ... At the same time, he deserves kudos for coming to the aid of teammate Phil Kessel after the Leafs forward was wallpapered from behind by Mike Rupp. Komisarek physically made certain that Rupp got the message: Cheap shots against the Leafs top players are unacceptable ... Earlier in the game, Komisarek dropped the gloves and took part in an entertaining scrap with Asham ... A lot of opponents don’t want to have anything to do with Leafs tough guy Colton Orr, but don’t count the Pens’ Deryk Engelland among them. Engelland, who claimed a unanimous decision over Orr when the two players fought in the third game of the season, more than held his own during the rematch in the first period Wednesday night ... And, hey, was that really Mikhail Grabovski delivering a forearm to Crosby’s yap in the second period? Maybe Armstrong’s influence is rubbing off on some of his teammates, after all.

Last minute of play

Crosby won the first nine faceoffs he took. Outstanding. Faceoff wins mean puck control, which is so vital in the modern game ... When a long bouncing shot was fumbled by Gustavsson early in the second period, how many of you were fearful that this might be one of those dreaded “Vesa Toskala moments?” ... We’ll cut Gustavsson some slack. The ice at the new beautiful CONSORT Energy Center is brutal and bumpy.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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