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Sabres defeat Penguins for second straight time

by Chris Adamski

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma knew it was a long shot that Steve Ott's late goal would be overturned by video review.

So, once again, the Buffalo Sabres solved the riddle of beating Pittsburgh -- even if seemingly no one else has.

Ott batted a puck out of midair past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:34 to play, and the Sabres snapped the Penguins' seven-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory Tuesday.

It was Pittsburgh's third loss in its past 25 games, two of which were at Consol Energy Center to Buffalo. The Sabres, already assured of a last-place finish in the Northeast Division, have the only two victories by an opposing team at Pittsburgh since Feb. 20.

"It goes to show if guys play together and play the right way ...," Buffalo coach Ron Rolston said. "We had the win in Boston (last Wednesday) and a couple wins here on the road, and those teams are quality teams."

Thomas Vanek scored twice and set up a Jochen Hecht goal in the third period for the Sabres, who were playing their second game since being eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention.

Ott, who was given a 10-minute misconduct in the second period after arguing with officials, reached to his left to slap a rebound of a Mark Pysyk shot into the net over Fleury's shoulder for his ninth goal of the season.

Officials used video replay to verify the play was legal and not a high stick. The Consol crowd seemed to be expecting the goal to be overturned, but it was upheld.

"The call on the ice means a lot, I think, especially when it comes to a high stick," Bylsma said, "because you can't really tell the angles on the replays in a lot of cases. Immediately, he called it a goal on the ice, and I thought it was going to have to be a pretty drastic view to change it."

Vanek, who was stopped on a breakaway by Fleury midway through the second period, has four goals and three assists over his past five games to give him 20 goals on the season. Drew Stafford assisted on each of Vanek's goals -- the second into an empty net -- extending his point streak to four games.

The game Tuesday was rescheduled from Saturday after the Penguins' game at the Boston Bruins was moved to that day due to the manhunt for a Boston Marathon bombing suspect late last week.

Penguins goals leader Chris Kunitz scored for the second time in 11 games to give him 22, and Jarome Iginla scored for the fourth straight game. Pittsburgh welcomed back Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Fleury to the lineup 24 hours after all missed a win Monday at the Ottawa Senators.

Malkin, the reigning NHL MVP, had an assist and won 11 of 18 faceoffs in 21:18 of ice time playing for the first time in five games since aggravating a shoulder injury that caused him to miss nine games in March.

"He was flying," said Iginla, who was on a line with Malkin and Pascal Dupuis. "He created something almost every shift, taking guys with him, really making plays. He could have had four or five tonight. ... It was fun to see him back out there. He was dominant as usual."

The Penguins (35-11-0) did not avoid further injury in what was a relatively meaningless game for them. Pittsburgh has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and remains alive in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks by three points.

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik did not play the final two periods because of a lower-body injury. The team did not release specifics of when he was injured or his prognosis. Orpik was seen blocking a shot late in the first period.

Letang, who came back after sitting out at Ottawa due to food poisoning, also briefly left the game, apparently to treat a cut on his face.

"Right now we're definitely being pretty cautious with injuries," center Brandon Sutter said.

"We still want to keep winning and have that chance of winning first overall; whether that's still realistic after tonight I'm not sure, but we have to still keep playing well even though there's not much on the line for us. Our momentum from these last couple games will carry into the playoffs."

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 41 saves to win playing his 499th career game. Fleury, after not making the trip to Ottawa because his wife is expecting to deliver the couple's first child, made 29 saves and lost for the second time in 13 starts.

Buffalo's previous win at Pittsburgh snapped a 15-game Penguins winning streak April 2. That started a stretch in which the Sabres have won seven of 11. But a loss to the New York Rangers on Friday eliminated Buffalo from Stanley Cup Playoffs contention.

"It's always nice to win -- this does feel a little bit empty, but it's nice to win," Miller said. "I thought the guys did a nice job of sticking together and playing hard."

Pittsburgh missed out on its fourth winning streak of at least eight games over the past two seasons; the rest of the NHL combined has three.

Six minutes into the third, Vanek won a puck battle against three Penguins along the left-wing boards and slid it into the high slot for Hecht, who one-timed it for his fifth of the season.

Less than five minutes later, Iginla scored his fifth in 11 games since being acquired from the Calgary Flames, his 14th of the season, a one-timer from high in the left circle off a pass from Letang.

Cody Hodgson and Pysyk each had two assists for the Sabres.

"If you look at our whole season, really, against top teams we played good hockey," Vanek said. "And against -- I'm not going to say lower teams -- but teams like the Florida and Tampa [Bay], we struggled to get wins. And ultimately that's our season right there."

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