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Crosby, Penguins roll over Miller, Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- This time, Dan Bylsma was happy to see Sidney Crosby score against Ryan Miller.

Crosby had the go-ahead goal in the second period and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Wednesday night.

Crosby gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead 2:08 into the second period when he beat Miller during a power play. He took a pass from Matt Niskanen, split the Buffalo defense and then fired a wrist shot over Miller's shoulder for his 28th goal of the season.

Bylsma enjoyed Crosby's goal from behind the Penguins' bench. But he'll be coaching Miller, not Crosby, beginning next week when he leads the United States into the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Crosby beat Miller in overtime to give Canada the gold medal in Vancouver four years ago.

"It did dawn on me that both those players are going to be on opposite teams again in a couple of weeks," Bylsma said. "So it did dawn on me as Sid was going in and he scores the goal. I was cheering the goal this time."

Miller and the Sabres haven't had much success keeping Crosby off the scoresheet. Pittsburgh's captain has at least one point in 17 consecutive games against the Sabres, a streak that began on Dec. 29, 2007, and has 37 points in 25 career games against Buffalo, including an assist on Harry Zolnierczyk's first-period goal.

"I don't have a great explanation for it," Crosby said of his success against Buffalo. "I don't think about anything different when I play them… I've been involved in games where they have four guys in your zone buzzing around and that's not fun to play against either. So I think it's being opportunistic, and maybe some bounces too, but I don't try to change anything."

Buffalo (15-33-8) is last in the overall standings and has lost three in a row.

"Two different teams out there," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "This is one of the premier teams in the League. They're running for a Stanley Cup, and ours is in the early stages of trying to re-establish something here, and you establish with the right attitudes. … You find out who's in for the long haul and who wants to battle through difficult times. That's a good team. Give them that. But that doesn't stop you from trying to compete against them."

The Sabres came out revved up and grabbed the lead 5:58 into the game when Drew Stafford stuffed a loose puck in the crease past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Stafford picked off a clearing attempt by Fleury along the boards and fired it on net. The rebound went to Tyler Ennis, whose wraparound attempt was stopped but rolled through the crease before Stafford jabbed it underneath Fleury for his ninth goal of the season.

"I thought Buffalo came out hard in the first with a hard forecheck," Bylsma said. "They gave us some problems with it. We turned over a couple pucks that led to the first goal, but I liked how we responded after that."

The Penguins (40-15-2) tied the game at 15:01 when Zolnierczyk, who was called up from the American Hockey League on Tuesday by the Penguins, took a pass from Craig Adams and fired a wrist shot past Miller for his second goal of the season.

"I thought it was a big goal by Harry Z.," Bylsma said. "Our first goal on a forecheck, physical up ice, and someone mentioned it looked like he knows what he's doing around the cage and a nice play from Adams. He goes backhand to forehand and puts it home. It's a big goal for us."

Pittsburgh's superstars took over in the second period.

After Crosby put the Penguins ahead to stay, Evgeni Malkin made it 3-1 at 17:48 when he beat Miller on a breakaway. Malkin poked the puck past defenseman Jamie McBain to create the 1-on-1 situation against Miller, then deked and slid the puck into the net for his 17th goal of the season.

"The [third] goal was really a killer," Nolan said. "They're a very good team. When you have a soft dump-in and Malkin gets the puck, he was looking for a breakaway. That's just bad, bad playing on our part."

The Penguins outshot the Sabres 15-9 in the second period and 34-25 overall

"I thought our second and third, that was more how we need to play and did play and played real well," Bylsma said. "We got our opportunities, and we got several on breakaways, but we got them from good defense. We were good positionally and that turned into the Malkin goal."

Brian Gibbons made it 4-1 at 5:22 of the third period with his fourth of the season when he beat Miller from the right circle after Brandon Sutter won a faceoff against Cody Hodgson straight back to him.

"It's nice to see [Gibbons] invented and created a new faceoff play for himself," Bylsma said. "I think he even celebrated on that goal."

Malkin added an assist on James Neal's 19th goal of the season with 7:48 left in regulation.

Sabres captain Steve Ott said his team continues to work hard despite being last in the overall standings.

"That's a good team over there that's obviously playing extremely well," Ott said. "We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of turnovers in the second. But there's no lack of passion. Every guy's out there working hard trying to compete. … Let's be honest, that's a good team."

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