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Top line leads Pens past Sabres in third-period rally

by Chris Ryndak

BUFFALO, N.Y. – When Sidney Crosby comes to Buffalo, so do the points.

In the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-3 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at First Niagara Center, Crosby recorded a goal and two assists and that's nothing new for the Penguins' captain.

Crosby has points in 20 of 22 games against the Sabres and at least one point in 14 consecutive games. He also has eight goals and 11 assists when playing at First Niagara Center in his career, earning at least one point in each of his 13 games here.

"I don't know if I want to talk about it," Crosby said, knocking on the wooden bench in the visitor's dressing room. "It's been good … For whatever reason, I've been able to put some points up, but it's great ice here. That's all I can say."

Defenseman Paul Martin scored the game-winner with 2:04 to play in the third period. The puck was poked off of Crosby's stick in the Buffalo zone and ended up on Martin's tape just after he came off the bench.

Martin's shot from the point deflected off Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and past goaltender Ryan Miller.

"[Crosby] was trying to pass it and it kind of found its way towards me. I just put it to the net and it went in," Martin said. "Let it go, see what happens."

Crosby's line with Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz stepped up for the Penguins. Dupuis scored twice and Kunitz recorded three assists. Crosby assisted on the team's two third period goals and has six points in his last three games.

"For us to be patient and continue to work and find a way to win in the end is big on the road," Martin said.

Buffalo's goals came from Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott.

Vanek extended his lead as the NHL's top scorer with 12 goals and 25 points on the year. With three points in this game, Crosby now trails Vanek by one.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for the Penguins and Miller stopped 31 shots for Buffalo.

"It was a hard fought game in a lot of areas," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "There were some flurries around our net where Buffalo came hard and Marc-Andre stood tall."

Pittsburgh scored two goals in the first 1:27 of the game to take a 2-0 lead but the Sabres managed to tie it up heading into the third period.

Ott gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead 5:17 into the third period. Nathan Gerbe had a shot blocked by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and the puck deflected into the middle of the ice and onto Ott's stick. A quick wrist shot from Ott beat Fleury.

The Sabres rallied in the third period to beat the Boston Bruins on Friday, but their efforts Sunday afternoon came up short.

"Obviously we're disappointed we didn't win or collect points," Ott said. "But to show the character of this group to continue to battle back, save face in this organization and give us a chance to win to tonight, that's what it's all about."

Pittsburgh was quick to respond. Kris Letang pinched into the Buffalo zone and sent a pass across the ice to Dupuis, who ripped a one-timer past Miller at 7:06 of the period to tie the game, 3-3.

"It was an awesome pass by [Letang] all the way across there," Dupuis said. "I don't know how he can even do that and have it end up flat on my blade, but it was an awesome play."

Pittsburgh opened the scoring 35 seconds in on their first shot of the game. Kunitz picked up a turnover by Hodgson behind the Sabres net and sent the puck back to Orpik at the left point. Orpik fired a shot on goal that Dupuis deflected in past Miller.

The Penguins have scored the opening goal in all 10 of their road games this season and improve to 8-2-0 away from home.

"We try to make sure we keep it simple at the start. We give ourselves an opportunity to get our feet under us and hopefully get in the offensive zone," Crosby said. "So I don't think we specifically think about scoring, it's just more or less getting into their zone and getting to our game."

Pittsburgh went on the power play 33 seconds later when defenseman Tyler Myers was sent to the box for high sticking. Crosby scored his seventh goal of the season 19 seconds into the man advantage when a shot from the point by Evgeni Malkin caromed off the end boards to Miller's left and right to Crosby. The Penguins captain tucked the puck over the goal line to give his team a 2-0 lead.

Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in eight consecutive games. Against the Sabres last season, the Penguins went 6-for-14 with the man advantage and were 1-for-4 on Sunday.

Buffalo battled back with a goal from Hodgson at the 6:32 mark to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1. Fleury put a rebound from an Ehrhoff point shot right into Hodgson. After settling the puck down and knocking it out of Joe Vitale's reach, Hodgson fired a shot over the glove of a sprawling Fleury.

Hodgson has scored in consecutive games of the Sabres and has seven this season.

Buffalo and Pittsburgh became the first teams to combine for three goals on the first four shots of the game since the Sabres and the Atlanta Thrashers played each other on March 16, 2010.

Midway through the first during 4-on-4 play, Miller stopped a shot by Crosby and Tyler Ennis blocked a shot from Kunitz shot while Miller was down on the ice with his back to the shooter.

Fleury made a big save of his own when he stopped Vanek on a point blank opportunity in front of the net a few minutes later.

Vanek tied the game at two with a rare power-play goal against the Penguins 9:16 into the second period.

With Crosby in the box for cross checking, Penguins forward Tanner Glass was called for a face-off violation, putting the Sabres on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:58. Vanek lifted his leg to deflect Ehrhoff's wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle with 23 seconds left in Crosby's penalty.

Buffalo's last power play goal against the Penguins came on Dec. 11, 2010 when Ennis scored in a 5-2 loss.

Letang had a chance to give the Penguins the lead back on the power play but hit the crossbar with 6:29 left in the second period.

Buffalo's best opportunities to take the lead came on a power play late in the third period. The Sabres generated traffic and had clean looks, but ripped most of their shots way wide of Fleury.

Miller preserved the tie game with 3:08 to play when he moved post to post to snag a one-timer from James Neal with his glove.

Defenseman Andrej Sekera missed the game for Buffalo with a charley horse he sustained on Friday against the Bruins.

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