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Penguins hang on to defeat Sabres in Bylsma's return

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Zatkoff made 50 saves to help the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, spoiling coach Dan Bylsma's return to Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh (6-4-0) has won six of its past seven games since beginning the season with three consecutive losses.

Zatkoff's start was his first in the NHL since April 13, 2014, when the Penguins lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Ottawa Senators. It was his first win in the League since March 22, 2014, when Pittsburgh defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3.

"It took me a period, about, to get familiar with the screens," said Zatkoff, who played 37 games for the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate and appeared in one game with Pittsburgh in 2014-15. "In practice, you don't have that many guys -- your D corps, your forwards, their forwards -- in and out trying to track the puck. So, after the first, I felt a lot more comfortable. It felt like I settled in."

The four goals are the most the Penguins have scored this season.

The Sabres (3-7-0) failed in their bid to win consecutive games for the first time this season.

Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal of the season to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead 8:18 into the second period. Shortly after being released from the penalty box, Lovejoy gained possession and dropped the puck to Evgeni Malkin entering the offensive zone. Malkin returned the puck to Lovejoy, who tucked it between the left post and goalie Chad Johnson's right skate.

Malkin extended the Pittsburgh lead to two goals on a power play with 5:03 remaining in the second. Malkin's fourth goal was the Penguins' third with the man-advantage on 32 opportunities.

Matt Moulson scored with 2:26 remaining in the third period to pull the Sabres to within one goal, but Buffalo could not capitalize on a power play in the game's final two minutes. The goal initially was credited to Ryan O'Reilly, who had the primary assist.

Pittsburgh allowed 24 shots in the third period. The Penguins played Wednesday, earning a 3-1 win at the Washington Capitals, and coach Mike Johnston said he thought it affected their late-game performance against the Sabres.

"I don't want to make excuses, but that's a tough back-to-back. That's a real tough back-to-back," Johnston said. "Sometimes when you have a lead, psychologically at that time, if you're a little bit tired, you tend to sit back. I thought when we did that through the third. That Buffalo, they have a good-skating young team, and we didn't get our forecheck going, so they drilled the net and they came at us with a lot of speed.

"It seemed like we were backing up a lot. … The best way to settle down a period like that is to attack yourself like we did in the first two periods."

Zatkoff made four saves in the final 51 seconds to preserve the one-goal lead.

The Penguins scored two goals in the game's first 7:16, but a late push from the Sabres erased their two-goal deficit.

Forwards Pascal Dupuis and Patric Hornqvist each scored his first goal of the season to build the Penguins' 2-0 lead. Dupuis scored 56 seconds in when he dove to poke a rebound off of a shot from Sidney Crosby past Johnson. Crosby also assisted Hornqvist's goal with a backhand pass that set up Hornqvist for a one-timer between the faceoff circles.

Dupuis' goal was his first since Nov. 14, 2014, when he scored twice against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Sabres responded with two goals 2:15 apart to tie the game with 3:20 remaining in the first. Jamie McGinn deflected Tim Schaller's shot past Zatkoff at 14:25, then O'Reilly fed Nicolas Deslauriers from behind the net to set up the tying goal.

"I thought, even though it was a slow start, we stuck with it," said O'Reilly, who has 10 points in 10 games. "I think we've been in that situation before and we haven't handled ourselves the right way and the appropriate way and didn't respond the right way, and this time we did. We came back, we started to get possession of the puck and got it deep, and the game started to swing our way a bit.

"Unfortunately, in the second, we didn't continue to do what we wanted to do."

Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis did not play because of a lower-body injury and is day-to-day, Bylsma said.

The Penguins played a video tribute during the first period for Bylsma, who coached Pittsburgh from 2009-2014 and won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Though he joked he doesn't "know what choked up means," Bylsma admitted the crowd's response made for a special moment.

"I just saw a little bit of the [tribute video]. They got me jumping around a little bit," Bylsma said. "It was obviously a nice welcome and nice applause. I was thankful."

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