|BUF||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||3|
|PIT||1||0||1||(0 - 0)||2|
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Buffalo Sabres don't need to give goalie Martin Biron much help these days. A strategical adjustment by coach Lindy Ruff and a fortuitous shot by Ales Kotalik provided exactly that.
Kotalik's power-play goal early in the third period put Buffalo back in the lead and the Sabres won in Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly five years, beating the slumping Penguins 3-2 Tuesday night.
Maxim Afinogenov scored Buffalo's first goal, then set up Kotalik's game-winner about 5 1/2 minutes into the final period with a cross-ice pass that Kotalik one-timed through goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's pads for his 13th goal - and the Sabres' only power-play goal in seven chances.
"We switched Ales off the top power play unit because they were taking him away," Ruff said, referring to a Penguins defense that collapsed on Kotalik whenever he got the puck. "You would rather have Ales shooting. They did their homework. They didn't want him shooting the puck, but he found a way to sneak one in."
Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk preferred to call it a soft goal rather than a sneaky one.
"They got a lucky bounce and when you talk about soft goals, that was one you would call a soft goal," Olczyk said.
With Biron making 30 saves to win his fourth in a row, the Sabres ended an 0-5-2 winless run in Pittsburgh since they last won there Dec. 2, 2000 - a few weeks before Mario Lemieux's comeback game following a 3 1/2-year retirement.
Lemieux returned again Tuesday after missing one game and two of his previous four with flu-like symptoms, but was held without a goal for his sixth consecutive game and the seventh time in eight games.
Buffalo has won its last four and is 8-2-1 in its last 11. Pittsburgh lost its third in a row, fourth in five games and sixth in eight.
"We've been trying to get on a roll," Biron said. "We went on a little skid there when we lost four in a row and five of six, but we've been able to bounce back and play well against some good teams. Pittsburgh had us going for a while, but we responded."
Matt Murley gave the Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead, a rarity for a Penguins team that has scored the initial goal only seven times in 25 games, but the Penguins were 1-for-9 on the power play.
"We had some good opportunities and the last couple of games we've been having a hard time finishing," said Olczyk, whose team has scored more than three goals only once in 12 games. "We're creating a lot but not finishing."
The Penguins were 0-for-4 with the man advantage in the final period. They also failed to generate any momentum after John LeClair ended an eight-game streak without a goal early in the period by scoring on a power play to tie it at 2.
Fleury, recalled Monday from the minors to be the Penguins' starting goalie after neither Jocelyn Thibault nor Sebastien Caron could win the job, made 24 saves and was strong when Buffalo was on the power play. But the former No. 1 draft pick did not play as well as he did in his previous start Nov. 16 in Philadelphia, when he made 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory he started only because of an injury.
"It didn't go the way I would like it to go," Fleury said. "I don't think that's the best I can bring."
Murley's second career goal put Pittsburgh up 1-0 about five minutes into the game, not long after Biron made the save of the night by throwing out his stick to stop Sidney Crosby's shot into what looked to be an open net. Biron had a 1.92 goals-against average in winning each of his previous three starts.
Afinogenov tied it midway through the period, steering in the rebound of a Derek Roy shot that deflected off Fleury and took several bounces in the slot before Afinogenov got his stick on it.
Paul Gaustad put the Sabres up midway through the second period with a wrist shot from the lower left circle that Fleury apparently did not see. Two of Gaustad's four career goals are against Fleury, including a goal in the Sabres' 3-2 win in Buffalo on Oct. 10.
Notes: Buffalo's leading scorer, Daniel Briere, missed his fourth in a row with an abdominal strain. ... Buffalo scored a power play goal for the 18th time in 19 games. ... The Sabres have 13 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games. ... Crosby, playing with a bruised left foot, was shut out for a second consecutive game after scoring six goals in his previous six games. ... Biron has an 8-4-1 record.
|Matt Murley (1) Slapshot - ASST: Mark Recchi (14), John Leclair (9)|
1 - 0 PIT
|Maxim Afinogenov (4) Slapshot - ASST: Derek Roy (5), Dmitri Kalinin (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Paul Gaustad (4) Wrist shot - ASST: Chris Drury (10), Jay McKee (2)|
2 - 1 BUF
|PPG - John Leclair (6) Snap shot - ASST: Mark Recchi (15), Sergei Gonchar (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Ales Kotalik (13) Wrist shot - ASST: Maxim Afinogenov (12), Teppo Numminen (17)|
3 - 2 BUF
|Steve Poapst Cross checking against Michael Grier|
|Tim Connolly Hooking against Matt Hussey|
|Ryan Whitney Holding against Jochen Hecht|
|Tim Connolly Interference against Maxime Talbot|
|Maxim Afinogenov Interference against Erik Christensen|
|Toni Lydman Holding the stick against John Leclair|
|Josef Melichar Interference against Thomas Vanek|
|Dmitri Kalinin Hooking against Sidney Crosby|
|Lasse Pirjeta Holding against Maxim Afinogenov|
|Matt Murley Tripping against Rory Fitzpatrick|
|Toni Lydman Holding the stick against Erik Christensen|
|Dmitri Kalinin Hooking against Mark Recchi|
|Ryan Whitney Holding against Jochen Hecht|
|Ales Kotalik Hi-sticking against Mario Lemieux|
|Dmitri Kalinin Holding against Matt Murley|
|Steve Poapst Holding against Thomas Vanek|