The Toronto Maple Leafs' offensive star was once again winger Clarke MacArthur, who netted his third and fourth goals of the season in the second period to put Toronto out to an impressive 4-2 lead with 29 minutes to play.
Quick starts aren't exactly new to MacArthur, now one of the league's scoring leaders with five points in the first three games of the season. He had four goals in his first six games last season with the Buffalo Sabres but then managed only 12 in his final 75 games.
Also contributing for Toronto on Wednesday was its fourth line with two goals, beginning with enforcer Colton Orr tipping a Luke Schenn point shot past Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-André Fleury to open the scoring six minutes in. (That goal was Orr's ninth in his 330th regular-season game.)
The Penguins, however, took a 2-1 lead by the end of the first, getting goals from Penguins forwards Chris Kunitz (on the power play) and Max Talbot (who picked off Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf's whiffed pass behind the net and stuffed it in).
After three quick Leafs goals (including MacArthur's two), Penguins captain Sidney Crosby brought his team to within a goal with 44 seconds left in the second period on a play that showcased just how dynamic he can be. Picking the puck up in the neutral zone, Crosby executed a give-and-go near the Leafs blueline, retrieving the puck in front of Gustavsson and beating him for his first goal of the season.
That set up a tight-checking third period, where the Penguins outshot Toronto 9-2 but couldn't beat the Monster, who picked up his first win in his first start of the season.
Toronto found the net three times in a 7-minute-29-second span early in the second period, picking apart an injury-ravaged Penguins defence and capitalizing on a few pretty plays.
And it was hard to put much blame on Fleury - who fell to 0-3 on the year - for allowing any of them.
Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle started the sequence off on the power play, finding MacArthur with a crisp, cross-ice pass which he then one-timed high on Fleury's glove side.
A François Beauchemin blast from the point 2:30 later made the score 3-2 before Mikhail Grabovski fed MacArthur from behind the net with a nifty behind-the-back pass. Another MacArthur one-timer gave Toronto what proved to be an insurmountable two-goal lead.
Big number: 11:27
Time, in minutes and seconds, before the Penguins recorded their first shot on goal in the game. The good news for Pittsburgh was that that shot was Kunitz's game-tying goal, and it went a long way toward limiting the Leafs' momentum. Prior to the lengthy penalty kill that led to that first Pens goal, Toronto had had a strong territorial advantage, including breakaways by Colby Armstrong and Mike Brown and several other near misses. The goal was the first the Leafs' penalty-killing units had given up this season.
The Penguins lineup was a pretty good look at the effect the salary cap can have on an elite team's roster - especially when injuries strike. With three key players in centre Jordan Staal (foot) and defencemen Zbynek Michalek (shoulder) and Brooks Orpik (groin) all out, Pittsburgh iced a much thinner group Wednesday night than the one that won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
The Penguins' bottom three blueliners were relative unknowns in Andrew Hutchinson, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy (who are making a combined $1.525-million U.S. this season), and Malkin's linemates were Eric Tangradi and Mark Letestu (who have a combined 19 career games played).
Making matters worse was the fact coach Dan Bylsma sat out forward Mike Comrie (healthy scratch) after he had gone pointless in their first three games despite plenty of power-play time.