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Penguins defeat Sabres, clinch playoff berth

Defending Stanley Cup champions climb to second in Metropolitan

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Tuesday.

"I don't want to say it's taken for granted, it's tough to make the playoffs in this league, but for so long we've been so high in the standings," said Nick Bonino, who scored with 5:29 left in the third period to break a 1-1 tie. "I think we were hoping we'd eventually make it."

 

WATCH: All Penguins vs. Sabres highlights

 

Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary scored for the Penguins (46-17-9), who have won three straight. The Sabres (30-32-12) had a two-game win streak end.

Sheary made it 3-1 with 3:31 left with his 21st goal after a rebound of his shot deflected off Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons.

"We're just trying to win each game as it comes," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We really haven't discussed [making the playoffs] at length at all with our group. We're just trying to stay in the moment. We're trying to compete hard, we're trying to get better every day, we're trying to win each game as it comes, and as long as we do that, and I think we keep that necessary focus, then the rest of it will take care of itself."

Video: PIT@BUF: Sheary's wrister finds twine off defender

Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead on the power play with nine seconds left in the first period with a goal that he lifted over Lehner with one hand.

"Not many guys can shoot it with one hand, so I don't think anybody [expects it]," Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said. "He's always been lethal with two hands on his stick, but now with one hand over the goalie, it works too."

Sam Reinhart made it 1-1 at 2:09 of the third period. He received a pass from Hudson Fasching and put a rebound of his shot past Matt Murray for his 17th goal.

Lehner made 31 saves, and Murray made 29.

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel left the game at 8:46 of the first period with a concussion he sustained on a hit by Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen was assessed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.

"Hopefully it won't be too long," Sullivan said. "I think all of them [concussions] are different, so it's not something that, at least at this point, we're hopeful it won't be an extended period of time, but we'll wait and see."

Video: PIT@BUF: Reinhart nets a wrister from a sharp angle

 

Goal of the game

Crosby received a pass from Justin Schultz in the neutral zone and skated past four defenders before cutting left in front of Zach Bogosian and lifting the puck with his right hand over Lehner's left shoulder for his 41st goal of the season.

"That's a play that everyone [messes] around doing in practice, and he does it in games," Bonino said. "The sea parted for him there, only 15 seconds left, he turned it on and that's a huge goal at the end of a period."

Video: PIT@BUF: Crosby dances past defense for gorgeous PPG

 

Save of the game

Lehner made saves on four breakaways, but his save against Sheary 50 seconds into the game stood out. Lehner moved out above the crease and got his right leg out to deflect Sheary's shot from between the circles.

Video: PIT@BUF: Lehner rejects Sheary's wrister on breakaway

 

Highlight of the game

Bonino received a pass from Ian Cole and took a shot from the left faceoff circle beat Robin Lehner for his 15th goal.

"The puck squirted to me and just tried to get it off as quick as I could, it went through a couple of screens and it found its way in," Bonino said.

Video: PIT@BUF: Bonino buries go-ahead goal from the circle

 

Unsung performance of the game

Penguins forward Matt Cullen played 18:29, including 1:24 on the penalty kill in the third period in helping shut down the Sabres power play, which was No. 1 in the NHL.

 

They said it

"Well, he's just a great player. He gets so many big goals for us. He's the type of guy that when the stakes are high he's at his best. Obviously we've needed him a lot right now with the situation we're in with some of the injuries that we have and he's making those types of plays game in and game out that's helping us stay competitive." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan on Sidney Crosby

 

"The beginning of the first, the beginning of the second we let them get some breaks. Their speed out to the neutral zone got some breakaways. … Other than that, I thought our group battled hard and didn't give up a ton." -- Sabres coach Dan Bylsma

 

Need to know

It's the 11th straight season the Penguins have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. … Crosby had two teeth knocked out when he received a high-stick from Evander Kane with 1:25 left in the third period. … Bogosian played an NHL career-high 33:29.

 

What's next

Penguins: At the Ottawa Senators on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, RDS2, TSN5, ROOT, NHL.TV)

Sabres: Home against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Penguins clinch playoff berth with win vs. Sabres

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