James Neal and Zbynek Michalek both scored their first goals as Penguins – 3:17 apart early in the second period – and Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to lead Pittsburgh to a 3-1 win over visiting Buffalo.
Neal set up Michalek’s eventual game-winner, and his relentless back-check led to Mark Letestu’s third-period goal that gave the Pens a two-goal lead. Letestu deflected a shot from Michalek. Neal hasn’t played poorly since coming to Pittsburgh, but his lack of production had some fans worried. Maybe this performance will calm some nerves and lead to more offense from Neal.
The Pens now have a two-game winning streak for the first time since early February and have picked up at least a point in five straight games. More good news: The team welcomed Chris Kunitz back to the lineup Tuesday, and Kunitz was his usual self – a physical presence on the fore-check (game-high 5 hits) and in front of the net.
Pittsburgh is clearly playing its best hockey since Evgeni Malkin got hurt Feb. 4. The defense (minus Brooks Orpik) has been excellent, Fleury’s on top of his game and the penalty kill is still ranked first in the NHL. The power play, however, continues to struggle…mightily. The Pens went 0-7 against Buffalo, and they’re now 2-31 over the past 10 games. The team has three days to improve the PP before Montreal comes to town for a Saturday afternoon matinee.
Here’s Sabre Noise’s reaction to Tuesday’s game.