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game recap

Letang helps Penguins defeat Sabres

Defenseman has three assists; Fleury makes 24 saves for Pittsburgh

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

Kessel's goal extends lead to 3-1

PIT@BUF: Letang and Kessel connect, Pens stretch lead

2/21/16: Kris Letang fakes a shot from the right boards and sends a perfect pass over to Phil Kessel, who flips the puck into a wide open net

  • 00:44 •

BUFFALO - Kris Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins got the bounce-back effort they were looking for on Sunday. 

Letang had three assists and helped the Penguins to a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Letang set up second period goals from Scott Wilson and Phil Kessel and a shorthanded breakaway goal by Matt Cullen in the third period. 

"It was really important," Letang said. "I think we didn't play a great game against Tampa Bay [on Saturday], but it's just in our mind right now it's a back-to-back game, afternoon game, and we have to get a lot better. It got a lot better and I think one thing we need to improve is our start of a game; it's not where it needs to be." 

Letang had an assist and took three minor penalties in the Penguins 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Saturday. 

"He's obviously an important player for us," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He logs a lot of minutes. He's such a good player when he plays the game the right way and when he has control over his emotions. I love the fact that he's a passionate guy. He's a competitive guy. He really cares. That's why he's emotional but I love that about him, and that's what I told him. But obviously he's got to channel it the right way and I thought he did that tonight." 

Video: PIT@BUF: Hornqvist puts Penguins ahead with tip-in

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period and the Sabres had a 15-6 advantage in shots. The Penguins (30-20-8) took over in the second period. 

Wilson made it 2-1 and extended his goal scoring streak to three games. He received a cross-crease pass from Letang and took a snap shot that beat Sabres goalie Robin Lehner up high for his third goal of the season 5:28 into the period. 

"I'll take what I can get," said Wilson, who was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Feb. 1. "Just the confidence thing has helped me a lot. In the American League you can kind of pick your spots more and I think [Sullivan] has put me in good situations. ... I think that, confidence-wise, has helped me a lot."

Kessel made it 3-1 with his 19th goal of the season with 2:10 left in the second when he received a cross-ice pass from Letang near the side of the Sabres net and put a wrist shot past Lehner. 

"I was going to shoot and I saw him open, so I just slid the puck in on the back door," Letang said. 

Video: PIT@BUF: Cullen scores on shorthanded breakaway

Cullen made it 4-1 with a shorthanded breakaway goal, his eighth of the season, 7:52 into the third period after he received a pass from Carl Hagelin. Letang chipped the puck to Hagelin who flipped the puck ahead to Cullen for the breakaway. Cullen's shot was trapped by Lehner momentarily before is slid out underneath him and into the net. 

"I felt it. I squeezed it, but I didn't really feel if it went through or not," said Lehner, who made 27 saves. "I don't know. It's unfortunate because I felt like I played well and I wanted to make that stop for the team. But sometimes things happen and I regret that one." 

Sabres forward Brian Gionta scored 13 seconds later on the power play when he tipped a Zach Bogosian shot past Fleury for his eighth of the season to make it 4-2. 

Bogosian scored two goals including his third of the season with 21.4 seconds left in the third to conclude the scoring. 

Video: PIT@BUF: Bogosian scores second of game in 3rd

The Penguins have won eight straight games against Buffalo. 

The Sabres (24-29-7) have lost two of their past three games. 

Patric Hornqvist gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead 9:09 into the first period. Sidney Crosby got an assist on the goal. He has 48 points in 30 career games against the Sabres. 

"You don't want to lose a couple in a row," Crosby said. "There's going to be times where you lose. We had a decent game yesterday. We could've been on the other side of it easily, but we've got to regroup and get two points here today, and we found a way." 

Bogosian made it 1-1 with 6:12 remaining in the first period with a power-play goal. With Hornqvist off for slashing, Bogosian took a slap shot that beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury low to the right side for his second goal of the season. It was Bogosian's first power play goal since Dec. 31, 2011. 

Fleury made 24 saves after not starting on Saturday because of an illness. 

Video: PIT@BUF: Fleury shows off reflexes with save in 1st

"That was good actually just to get back into it," Fleury said. "I didn't face a shot [Saturday]. It's good to get into it quick, get some shots, feel the game a little bit. I felt pretty good after." 

Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly missed the game with a lower-body injury he sustained in the Sabres 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and will be out the next 3-4 weeks. Justin Bailey was recalled from Rochester on Sunday to take his place in the lineup. 

"He's a guy who plays in every situation for our team, so he plays in the offensive zone, he plays in the defensive zone, he's playing power play, he's playing penalty kill," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "You need a big draw, he's somebody stepping over the boards, and that's something that we're going to miss and we're going to have to replace. I think you see the importance of that in our game tonight."

Video: Penguins down Sabres, 4-3

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