BUFFALO -- Tristan Jarry made 28 saves for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who held off the Buffalo Sabres for a 3-2 win at KeyBank Center on Saturday.
"[Jarry] was solid. He made some big saves down the stretch," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think our goaltending tandem (with Casey DeSmith) has been really solid for quite some time now. These guys are making timely saves for us. Today was no different."
Jared McCann, Evan Rodrigues and Bryan Rust scored for Pittsburgh (28-13-3), which is 4-0-1 in its past five games and moved one point ahead of the New York Islanders for second place in the eight-team MassMutual East Division. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We're focused on where we are in the standings and trying to put ourselves in the best position moving forward and into the playoffs," Rodrigues said. "I think we're taking it one game at a time. Our mentality is the next game, and we're just trying to get better as a team so we can be going strong the rest of the season into the playoffs."
Video: PIT@BUF: Rust tips Crosby's pass in for PPG in front
Tage Thompson and Casey Mittelstadt scored, and Dustin Tokarski made 38 saves for Buffalo (11-26-7). The loss eliminated the Sabres from playoff contention.
"We didn't get the result we wanted tonight, but I thought we played a really well-rounded game," Thompson said. "I think a couple of times we didn't get the puck in deep and make their [defense] turn, but I thought for the most part we worked really hard. I think that's the trend we've been seeing the last little while now. So it's good. I think we've got to learn from that and keep building."
McCann gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 10:30 of the first period when he got the rebound of Mike Matheson's shot and banked the puck off Tokarski from below the goal line.
"It may look like it's a lucky play, but it's real calculated play," Sullivan said. "And it's a heads-up play to try to take advantage of a goalie when he's in that situation, where he's got some separation from his post and there's some light there. He used the goalie himself to bank it off of and put it in the net. So I thought it was a real smart play on Jared's part."
Pittsburgh outshot Buffalo 12-6 in the first period.
"It was puck management initially," Sabres coach Don Granato said. "We were a little bit messy again, and it was just a process to get into the game for us for whatever reason. It took us a process to get into the game and absolutely part of it was a credit to them. They played hard, they closed ice well, specifically on entry. We complied too much on that. We needed to get pucks behind them a little bit, at least a little bit early to pressure, and we didn't do that."
Rodrigues made it 2-0 at 5:57 of the second period. Teddy Blueger intercepted a pass attempt by Dylan Cozens behind the net and sent the puck to Rodrigues in the bottom of the left circle.
Thompson got to a loose puck and scored from the slot to cut it to 2-1 at 6:41. Rust redirected a centering pass from Sidney Crosby at the top of the crease on the power play to push the lead to 3-1 at 12:15.
Mittelstadt scored a power-play goal with a one-timer from the slot to get Buffalo to within 3-2 at 11:44 of the third period.
Video: PIT@BUF: Mittelstadt rockets one-timer home for PPG
Sam Reinhart nearly tied it with 2:21 remaining, but his shot hit the post and Jarry was able to turn around and cover the puck in the crease.
"We struggled early to get into our rhythm a little bit," Mittelstadt said. "I thought we got better throughout the game. I think we gave up too much time early. [Tokarski] made some big saves for us. Just a little too late I guess. Obviously, there are some things we can build on and take into next game. Most of all, we need to be ready to go from the start."
NOTES: Pittsburgh is 13-0-2 in its past 15 games in Buffalo. The Penguins are 17-5-2 since March 1, which is third in the NHL behind the Colorado Avalanche (19-3-3) and Vegas Golden Knights (18-7-1). … The Sabres have not qualified for the playoffs since 2010-11, tied for the longest drought in NHL history. The Florida Panthers (1999-2000 to 2011-12) and Edmonton Oilers (2005-06 to 2016-17) also had playoff droughts lasting 10 seasons.
Video: Jarry, Penguins extend point streak to five with win