PITTSBURGH -- Nearly every Buffalo Sabres trip to Pittsburgh of recent vintage has ended with the same result -- a loss created by one of the Penguins' multiple stars.
With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both out of the Penguins' lineup again early in the season, this became a fortuitous time for Buffalo to travel to perhaps its least-favorite city.
Luke Adam and Nathan Gerbe each scored a goal and set up another, Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves in his first start this season and the Sabres rebounded from a home-opener loss one night before to defeat the offense-thin Penguins 3-2 on Saturday at the Consol Energy Center.
"Obviously those guys are two of the best players in the League," Enroth said of the missing Crosby and Malkin. "They're going to be good when those guys get back."
The Penguins haven't been bad even without Crosby (concussion) for the season to date and Malkin (right knee soreness) for three of the last four games. After winning three times and losing twice in overtime, they lost their first in regulation despite getting James Neal's League-high fifth goal.
Drew Stafford, coming off a two-point night in a 4-3 loss to Carolina on Friday, effectively put it away by drilling a shot off the right goal post and past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 3-1 at 8:06 of the third.
Jordan Staal answered at 15:09, but Enroth – strong all night -- made certain the Penguins didn't tie it. His strong save on Paul Martin's wrist shot with 1:13 preserved it even as Pittsburgh outshot Buffalo 14-5 in the third.
"Jhonas kept us in the game the whole game long," Adam said. "When your goalie is playing well, it gives the guys in front of him a lot of confidence. It's huge to come in here and take two points."
Especially here. Pittsburgh had won six in a row overall from the Sabres and 13 of 16. Buffalo also had dropped four in a row and seven of eight in Pittsburgh, failing to win there since Dec. 8, 2008. The Penguins also had swept two of the last three season series.
There once was a time – namely, last season – when there was a backup goalie in Buffalo in name only as Ryan Miller made 31 consecutive starts. But after Enroth went 9-2-2 last season, mostly late in the year, coach Lindy Ruff now plans to start him every fourth or fifth game.
"I thought he looked really sharp," Ruff said. "He had a great preseason and the plan is to use him more. He's really earned it – he improved last year. I thought he answered the call."
The Sabres are 3-1 with wins in three cities – none of them named Buffalo – over two continents with a revamped roster that includes Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr. They bounced back from the mistake-filled 4-3 loss to Carolina in which they allowed two shorthanded goals, their first game since they went 2-0 in the Compuware NHL Premiere in Europe.
Special teams mistakes weren't a problem in this one, not with each team going on the power play only once until Pittsburgh had a man advantage for 22 seconds at the end. That favored the Sabres, who have scored 10 goals and allowed only 5 while playing 5-on-5; the Penguins have allowed 14 and scored only 8 at full strength.
Last season, while being swept in the season series, Buffalo scored four of its five goals against the Penguins in the first period. That trend held up again as Gerbe and Adam scored less than five minutes apart in the first, quieting a sellout crowd of 18,562.
"We had a couple of key turnovers forced by the forwards -- and a couple of quick goals," Adam said.
And a tough situation for the Penguins, especially with Malkin unable to come back on a day's rest after getting two assists in a 3-2 shootout loss to Washington on Thursday .\
"At that point, it made it tough to come back," Pens coach Dan Bylsma said of the 2-0 deficit.
Fleury was 5-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average in his last five starts against the Sabres, but couldn't control the rebound of Adam's shot from the right circle on Buffalo's first goal. The puck deflected in front to Gerbe, who swept it toward the net as defenseman Kris Letang slid across the goal line, dislodging the net.
A goal wasn't signaled initially, but a video replay confirmed the puck crossed the goal line before Letang rammed into the net at 9:24 of the first.
Adam scored his third in four games at 14:05 for Buffalo, which hadn't beaten Pittsburgh in any venue since Dec. 29, 2009. Jason Pominville deflected Letang's clearing attempt near the blue line, creating a two-man rush in which Thomas Vanek set up Adam's wrister from 12 feet.
"We know how they were going to play, pinch down on our wingers, and we had a couple of breakdowns there and they capitalized on the chances," Neal said. "It's disappointing because we were so prepared and we knew how the game would be laid out."
With the Penguins working an effective forecheck early in the second period, Neal scored his third in two games – both losses – by throwing the puck at the net from a bad angle along the half wall after 5-foot-8 Steve Sullivan outfought 6-8 Tyler Ennis for possession in the corner. The shot deflected off Regehr and eluded Enroth.
"That's hockey and stuff like that happens," Enroth said. "It doesn't bother me that much."
On this night, not much did.
1 - 0 BUF
2 - 0 BUF
2 - 1 BUF
3 - 1 BUF