Led by three-point performances from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated a flat Toronto team 5-2 Saturday night.
"We have to find our game," said Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. "The bottom line is we have to be a lot better. Tonight we got beat in all aspects of the game. They were harder on pucks, they were better in their special teams than we were."
"It's two games in but it's unacceptable so far," said star forward Phil Kessel. "We've got to be better."
Crosby had a goal and two assists, all on the power play, for his second straight three-point game. Malkin also had a goal and two assists.
The Penguins captain savoured the fast start after last season's second-round playoff exit.
"(We) had a long summer, had a lot of time to think about last year," he said. "We're all pretty excited to get started. I think everybody's excited to get started, but it's nice to see it translate into a couple wins."
Fantasy team owners who took the Penguins superstar will be encouraged to know Crosby is on pace for a 246-point season. While that's not going to happen, Crosby will continue to profit if Pittsburgh's power play is allowed to take the ice as it did before a subdued Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,039.
Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter also scored for Pittsburgh (2-0-0), which got a solid showing in goal from Marc-Andre Fleury.
Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak replied for Toronto (0-2-0), which might have had it worse if not for goalie Jonathan Bernier.
It's still early days for the Leafs, who return to action Sunday in New York against the Rangers. And they have faced two fine teams in Montreal and Pittsburgh.
But Leafs Nation is anything but patient.
A fan tossed a Toronto jersey onto the ice with some eight minutes remaining in the game, as if throwing in the towel.
"They're frustrated and we're frustrated," said Carlyle.
Toronto lost its home opener 4-3 to Montreal on a late goal Wednesday.
Pittsburgh, which led 3-0 after the first period, outshot Toronto 41-25 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. The Leafs were down 3-0 and 5-1 when they scored their goals.
The line of Crosby, Hornqvist and Kunitz finished with six points and the Penguins went three-for-five on the power play. The Leafs were two-for-five with the man advantage.
"The penalties in the offensive zone specifically, were unacceptable," said Carlyle, saying his team has to be held accountable for its early-season lack of discipline.
Crosby picked up two goals and an assist in the Pens' season-opening win over Anaheim.
The reigning NHL scoring champion came into Saturday's game having collected 17 points (nine goals and eight assists) in 13 career visits to the Air Canada Centre and 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 28 career games against the Leafs.
Kessel's sluggish start continued with three trips to the penalty box, although one was a bench minor for too many men on the ice, and not much else. Kessel had one shot on the night.
"We didn't play that great, my line particularly again," said Kessel, lamenting the fact that his line isn't seeing much of the puck.
The second line featuring Lupul and Nazem Kadri, with Daniel Winnik this time, had the most jump. Leafs coach Randy Caryle shuffled the deck in the third period, having Kessel skate with Kadri and Lupul while David Clarkson was with the erstwhile first line of James van Riemsdyk and Bozak.
Van Riemsdyk and Simon Despres had a brief fight with 33 seconds remaining.
There was a fast-paced opening to the game with four minutes and nine seconds without a whistle from the opening puck drop. Carlyle liked his team's start, but a couple of bad bounces changed the complexion of the game.
Hornqvist opened the scoring at 6:44 on Pittsburgh's second shot, pouncing on a wide Christian Ehrhoff shot from the point that bounced back off the end boards. The former Predators winger got to it before a Leaf and fired a shot through Bernier's legs.
There was more of the same at 7:44, 14 seconds into a Kessel hooking penalty. An angled Kris Letang shot from the point flew just wide of the left post and bounced off the boards behind the goal back out past the right post where a cruising Crosby beat Stephane Robidas to the puck and slapped it in for his third in two games.
Kunitz, camped in front of goal with two Leafs in the box, made it 3-0 at 17:46 when he redirected a delicate Crosby feed from near the side boards.
"When the tide of the hockey game swung so hard against our hockey club, we didn't have much of a response," said Carlyle. "You look to those big guys on your team to be able to grab it back for you. And right now, in these two games they've had some difficulty doing that."
Defenceman Cody Franson, who missed the opener with a knee bruise, took warmup but did not play.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter