Win streak hits seven games

OK, maybe it's a bit early to ask sculptors to begin submitting design ideas for a Pascal Dupuis statue.

Might be prudent to put that off until Dupuis, say, saves the franchise from bankruptcy or earns a pocketful of league MVP awards.

Or at least rings up a second 20-goal season.

Dupuis still hasn't made it to that milestone in 2011-12, but he's getting pretty close after scoring a couple of timely ones in the Penguins' 3-2 victory against Toronto Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.

Three stars
  • 1. Pascal Dupuis, Penguins RW: 2 goals, 1 assist
  • 2. Jordan Staal, Penguins C: 1 goal, 1 assist
  • 3. Carl Gunnarsson, Maple Leafs D: 1 goal

The first pulled the Penguins to within a goal after the Maple Leafs built a two-goal lead early in the second period. The second proved to be the winner.

And just to round out his personal stat sheet, Dupuis earned an assist on the Penguins second goal, which was scored by linemate Jordan Staal.

Indeed, the Maple Leafs held center Evgeni Malkin without a point for the first time in nine games and kept his wingers, James Neal and Chris Kunitz off the scoresheet, as well, but couldn't contain the Steve Sullivan-Staal-Dupuis unit.

Those three accounted for all of the Penguins' goals and three of their six assists.

"We've been going really well," Sullivan said. "Overall, we're clicking."

So is their team; the victory was the Penguins' seventh in a row and raised their record to 40-21-5. They are four points ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs played without their No. 2 scorer, left winger Joffrey Lupul, who got a separated shoulder Tuesday in a 5-4 loss against Boston. Toronto also was missing rugged winger Colby Armstrong, who had his nose broken in a fight with Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

What's more, the Maple Leafs lost right winger Mike Brown and defenseman Cody Franson early in the first period, and thus played with a short bench for most of the evening.

"We knew eventually we could wear them down," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Not having to contend with Lupul likely made the evening a bit less stressful for Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen, who turned aside 22 of 24 shots to raise his NHL record to 2-0.

Thiessen wasn't often forced to be spectacular, although he made a quality stop on Toronto sniper Phil Kessel on a Maple Leafs power play with just over six minutes to go in regulation, but he was solid enough throughout that coach Dan Bylsma had no reason to second-guess his decision to give Marc-Andre Fleury a night off.

"We obviously wanted to play well in front of him and take away as many shots as we can, and he did a great job of stepping up with some big saves at the end," Staal said.

Thiessen faced just three shots in the opening period, but Kessel gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead one minute into the second while both teams were down a man because of penalties.

He took a feed from Jake Gardiner and tossed the puck into an open net from the left side after Thiessen had gotten knocked over in front of the crease by Toronto forward Tyler Bozak. Replays showed that Orpik checked Bozak into Thiessen.

"There was a little bit of contact," Orpik said. "It happened so quick. Those [officials] have a tough job to do. ... It was something you maybe look back on if you lose. When you win, you just move on."

Carl Gunnarsson made it 2-0 at 7:36, when a Mikhail Grabovski shot from above the right hash hit his stick and got past Thiessen, but the Penguins rebounded quickly as Dupuis got them back within one with his 16th of the season at 9:25.

He set up in the slot in front of the Toronto crease and, with his back to the net, deflected a Matt Niskanen slap shot past Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson.

Staal picked up the second assist on that goal, giving him a six-game points streak that matches the longest of his career, then pulled the Penguins even at 1:34 of the third, as he steered an Orpik shot past Gustavsson for his 22nd.

"[Orpik] did a nice job of corralling it and getting it on net," Staal said. "And I was fortunate enough to get a good angle on it."

Dupuis capped the Penguins comeback at 4:10, shoveling a backhander between Gustavsson's legs from inside the right circle for his first multiple-goal game since April 5.

It was a shot that likely should have been stopped, but it wasn't. And that was enough to get the Penguins a couple of points, and Dupuis a little more attention than usual.

"Pascal doesn't get a lot of notoriety for what he does on the ice," Bylsma said. "But he definitely affects things in a lot of ways."

Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:20:06