Originally created 05/08/99

Penguins blank Maple Leafs



TORONTO -- Dan Kesa was a surprise playoff hero for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kesa, who scored only two goals during the regular season and hadn't even managed a shot during the playoffs, scored the winning goal as the Penguins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 Friday night.

Jaromir Jagr played at only half speed because of a strained groin and Pittsburgh's offense managed only 19 shots. Yet, the Penguins emerged with a victory in their second-round playoff opener over the favored Maple Leafs.

Credit Pittsburgh's defense and a superior power play with the win. Goaltender Tom Barrasso got the shutout by making 20 saves -- few of them difficult ones.

"We know they're a great team offensively, so we have to stop them through the neutral zone and not let them get any speed up," Kesa said. "We did that pretty well."

Pittsburgh was 1-for-3 on the power play, with Kesa scoring in the first period, and Toronto was 0-for-4.

"The puck came to me in the slot and I saw (Curtis) Joseph was down, so I just teed it up and went high," said Kesa, a 27-year-old forward from Vancouver. "I got two goals all year and to get one on the power play on Hockey Night in Canada is a pretty good feeling."

Joseph had been bumped by teammate Mats Sundin and was falling when Kesa's slap shot went through his legs.

"If I had a hockey pool, I probably wouldn't have picked him," teammate Bobby Dollas said of Kesa.

German Titov added an empty-net goal with 37 seconds left.

"We really put our noses to the grindstone and we came out with the victory," Dollas said.

Game 2 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal is Sunday night.

"We played very good defense and Tommy played an excellent game," said Jagr. "I thought there would be more offense, especially the first game, but I'm glad we won.

"That's the way we played against New Jersey (in the first round) and it worked for us, so we didn't want to change anything."

The Penguins would have been up by two or three goals at the end of the first period except for some superb saves by Joseph.

Barrasso's shutout was his first in the playoffs in three years and his sixth in 108 career playoff games.

"We both came out a little tentative," said Barrasso. "Besides the specialty team play, I don't think there was a whole lot of activity in most of the game quite frankly, but I'm sure that will change as the series goes on.

"Both teams are in positions they haven't been in a lot lately. I know most of our guys have little playoff experience. We played a close-checking game and that was mostly the story of the night."

The Penguins bottled up the neutral zone.

"We couldn't get anything going in the neutral zone," said Maple Leafs forward Steve Thomas. "We didn't play well, we didn't execute, we didn't create any scoring chances."

Sergei Berezin, who had three shots on Barrasso in the game, was the only consistently dangerous Maple Leaf.

"We looked like the slowest club in the league because we were standing out there," said Toronto coach Pat Quinn. "Good checking does that -- it gets you standing.

"We looked like an ad-lib team. We had no sense of team play as far as moving the puck. I'm not sure anybody but Berezin had a scoring opportunity on our team. That really says a lot about how we played ... or how they played. I expected good defense out of them. I expected us to handle it a bit better."