Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins' 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
1. A NIGHT OF FIRSTS
It was Jeff Zatkoff’s first NHL start in over a year and a half, and he certainly had his work cut out for him as the Pens allowed a season-high 53 shots against. But he came up big when needed, and got some support at the other end as Pittsburgh's offense finally got going and netted a season-high four goals. Apart from Evgeni Malkin’s power-play tally, it was a night of firsts in that area of the game. After Pascal Dupuis and Patric Hornqvist each got their first goals of the year, Ben Lovejoy scored a big one after doing a tremendous job of defending Alex Ovechkin last night in Washington. It was just one of those games where different players and areas of the game (namely, the power play) stepped up and contributed to the win.
2. CROSBY'S LINE COMES TOGETHER
A lot of guys had big nights individually, but I thought the line of Dupuis, Sidney Crosby and Hornqvist stood out the most. There was some familiarity there as Crosby’s played with each of them on separate occasions, but tonight it felt like the three of them really came together as a line. It felt like they were in the offensive zone every shift. They did a tremendous job of working the puck in the Sabres’ end, spearheaded by the efforts of Crosby – who was a beast along the boards. He set up each of his linemates, beginning with Dupuis just 56 seconds into the game. The captain then fed Hornqvist in the slot to end his goalless streak at nine. The Swedish winger in particular had a heck of a night. The guy works his behind off every shift of every single game, but didn’t have anything to show for it to start this season. Tonight, he finally got rewarded with some puck luck. He was winning every race and every battle, finding open areas of the ice and generally wreaking havoc everywhere he went – which is what he did in the crease to set up Malkin’s goal.
3. SITTING BACK
The Pens sat back too much in this game, especially in the third period as they allowed 25 shots in that frame. Part of that might be fatigue from playing the second game of a back-to-back set, but regardless, the Pens let their foot off the gas a couple of times in the game and Buffalo took advantage of that. After getting out to a 2-0 lead early in the game, the Pens let the Sabres put them back on their heels and allowed them to tie it up in the last 5-plus minutes of the period. Then once the Pens built that two-goal lead back up in the second, the Sabres scored with 2:26 left in regulation and nearly forced overtime on a late power play. Fortunately, thanks to a tremendous effort by the Pens’ PKers, they were able to hold on for the win. But it was definitely a lot closer than it needed to be.