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Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Toronto on April 8.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Jake McCabe, the Maple Leafs’ veteran defenceman, is a lunch-bucket sort. Reliable, plays hard, tosses his body around, has a bit of an edge.

What he doesn’t do a lot of is score goals. But on Monday night he netted one with 3:30 left in overtime to life Toronto past Pittsburgh 3-2 at Scotiabank Arena.

It was McCabe’s eighth goal of the year, his third game-winner and first in extra time.

“It’s a cool moment for a guy who does a lot of grunt work for us,” Sheldon Keefe, the Toronto coach, said afterward.”He’s a competitor and does whatever is called upon.”

The win moved the Maple Leafs to within three points of the second-place Florida Panthers in the NHL’s Atlantic Division with five games to play. Toronto has one game in hand.

Auston Matthews scored his NHL-leading 65th goal in the third period to put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-1. Immediately the crowd began to chant “MVP” to recognize Matthews’s accomplishment.

The 26-year-old still has time in the regular season to hit the 70-goal mark. Buffalo’s Alexander Mogilny and Winnipeg’s Teemu Selanne were the last to do it, each with 76 goals in 1992-93.

Matthews has scored in each of Toronto’s last five outings and has an 11-game points streak during which he has 10 goals and nine assists.

Rookie winger Matthew Knies had the Maple Leafs’ other goal, which tied it at 1-1 in the second period. It was his 15th of the season.

“Auston is just himself,” Keefe said. “He is poised and just takes care of business. He doesn’t put scoring goals above the team. He goes about things the right way.”

The loss was just the third in nine games for the Pittsburgh, which moved into a tie for a wildcard playoff position with the Detroit Red Wings in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh has four games remaining to complete a remarkable comeback.

On Mar. 24, the Pittsburgh Penguins were 24th in the NHL standings, nine points out of the final playoff position in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. They were said to have less than a 2-per-cent chance of reaching the postseason.

After winning six of the last eight games and getting at least a point in each, they arrived in town a hair’s breadth behind Detroit and poised to make the greatest late-season push in league history.

No team has ever trailed by nine points with 11 regular-season contests left and went on to participate in Stanley Cup proceedings.

“I think if you looked at where we were two weeks ago, you probably didn’t think we would be in a position to play meaningful games at this point,” Crosby, the Penguins centre, said following the morning skate. “We have hung around and we are battling. We want to find a way to get in.”

As one would expect, the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer has largely carried the club on his back. He scored his 40th goal in a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday and is about to finish his 19th straight season averaging more than a point per game.

Crosby entered Monday with seven goals and 16 points in the last eight games. Nobody in the league has more than that since Mar. 24, and he has points in 11 of his last 13 games overall, accumulating 21 points in all.

“I’ve run out of phrases to explain Sid’s overall game and contributions to helping the Penguins win,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said Monday. “He is incredibly driven. He plays an inspired game. He is the heartbeat of this team.”

Crosby had an assist on a goal by Drew Connor that tied the score at 2-2 with 6:22 to go in the third.

Toronto has already clinched a postseason berth. With five games remaining it still has a slight chance to pass Florida and seize the home-ice advantage in the first round.

The game brought Kyle Dubas, Pittsburgh’s vice-president of hockey operations and general manager, back to Toronto, as well as the Penguins’ pesky winger Michael Bunting. Dubas served as the Maple Leafs general manager for five years before he was fired at the end of last season. Bunting was a useful irritant for Toronto over two campaigns.

Pittsburgh acquired him in a trade with Carolina in March and he has proven to be productive. On Saturday he scored the winner in the triumph over Tampa Bay.

“We’re fighting for our lives here,” Bunting said earlier in the day. “I’ll be ready for this one.”

He mostly played well but was held without a point.

The teams combined for seven penalties – with five charged against Toronto. But until Matthews snapped a puck in from long range with 18:38 left neither club had scored on a man advantage.

It was a peculiar night. At one point, Crosby got struck in the face with a puck and not long after had a monumental collision with Matthews. Both were slow to get up from the ice.

It was an odd and choppy game for the most part but ended with an exciting finish. Ilya Samsonov, who has won 18 of his last 21 starts, had 29 saves in Toronto’s net. Alex Nedeljkovic had 20 saves for Pittsburgh.

Toronto plays again on Tuesday at New Jersey.

“I thought we played good defensively,” Keefe said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot tonight. We were in our end way too much. It was one of those games where we had to stay with it.”

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