Pittsburgh Penguins Stampede Past Buffalo Sabres


The Pittsburgh Penguins visited their old coach, Dan Bylsma, on Sunday as they took on the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagra Center as part of Hockey Day in America.

Although the Pens have beaten the Sabres in seven consecutive games, Buffalo has been hot of late, going 3-0-1 in their last four contests.  The Sabres would be missing Ryan O’Reilly in this game, who was a late scratch.

The pace of the game was a bit sluggish at first, which could be attributed to the early start time of the game, the second in two consecutive days for Pittsburgh.  The Pens got on the board first when Patric Hornqvist redirected a puck sent in front of the net by Trevor Daley, at 9:09 of the first period.  Sidney Crosby also picked up an assist on the goal, his 31st on the season.

Netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was back in net, after taking ill and not being able to make yesterday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Fleury looked good early, turning away some decent attempts by Buffalo.  While Hornqvist was spending time in the penalty box for slashing, Zach Bogosian sent a shot screaming past Fleury who was screened, at 13:48 of the first.  Game tied 1-1.

Towards the end of the period, Mark Pysyk was in the box for cross-checking, while David Legwand took a penalty for tripping at 19:17.  With the Pens on a 5-on-3 power play, they had some good chances as the period wound down but couldn’t get the puck in the net.

An atmosphere of chippy play enveloped the start of the second period, as the penalties would begin to mount.  Olli Maatta picked up an interference penalty, while not long after Jack Eichel, rookie phenom of the Sabres, earned two minutes in the box for cross-checking.  The Pens wouldn’t let that power-play go to waste as Scott Wilson took a back-door pass to put the puck top-shelf and send Pittsburgh to a 2-1 lead.  The young guys have really turned up the heat lately, and Wilson is no exception.  He now has three goals in three games.  

Olli Maatta made a very nice play to take the puck away in the Sabres zone, and with a point-blank shot he made the crossbar ring as he nearly missed putting the puck into the net.  Not long after, the Pens would get a three-on-two and made one pass too many as Hornqvist’s pass to Crosby slid past him, and an open net, towards the boards.

With under two minutes remaining in the second period, Kris Letang sent the puck to Phil Kessel with a slap-pass, on the back doorstep of Robin Lehner.  Kessel seemed to have all day as he stickhandled until Lehner was horizontal, and then just wristed the puck into the net to put the Pens up by two goals, and earn his 19th goal on the season.  That’s the way the second period would end, with a score of 3-1.

Matt Cullen put the Pens up by three when he took the puck, shorthanded, and skating right towards Robin Lehner, sent the puck between his legs.  Lehner seemed to have stopped the puck, but his backward momentum carried him, and the puck, across the goal line.  In just a few more breaths however, the Sabres got back within two when Brian Gionta tipped a Bogosian shot past Fleury.  This was another case where Fleury didn’t have a real shot at the save.  Gionta was tied up in front of Fluery and when he tipped the puck it bounced downward off the ice and then into the net.  

M-A had an excellent performance, even considering the goals that went in.  His sickness must have passed, or at least he didn’t let it show if he was still feeling it.  He was using his stick to poke-check pucks away from Sabres’ shooters, and blocking almost every puck he could get his eyes on.

And he didn’t have a good chance to get a view of the Sabres’ next goal.  With the game winding down, and Lehner pulled from net, Bogosian  took a slap shot from near the blue line.  Fleury had a host of players in front of him and without a clear view of the puck it found its way to the back of the net.

Pittsburgh was able to kill off the remaining 20 seconds of the game though, and secure the 4-3 victory, keeping them squarely in the playoff picture.