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3 Impressions: Pens 4, Sabres 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

This seemed like the definition of a solid road game. It wasn’t overly entertaining or exciting, but the guys got the job done and that’s what counts. They were smart with the puck, managing it well out of their end and through the neutral zone. They got it behind the D and were strong on the forecheck getting after it. And after a relatively slow first, the Pens got their legs under them in the second and broke through for a lead they would not relinquish. When the Sabres did have possession, Marc-Andre Fleury was absolutely rock solid after being a late scratch for Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay due to illness. He certainly didn’t seem to have any lingering effects, as he was seeing and absorbing mostly everything. All three of Buffalo’s goals were scored on shots from the point through traffic.

Another game, another timely goal from a member of the bottom-six. After going without a goal for his first 12 games with Pittsburgh, Scott Wilson got his third in as many games today in Buffalo. I asked him yesterday what’s changed for him over this recent hot stretch, and he told me just the confidence. He felt that his line had been playing well recently, but the chances just weren’t falling. And now that they have, everything’s just seemed to click for him personally. Wilson was scoring at a phenomenal rate with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before getting called up, as he led the league in goals when he joined Pittsburgh. Now, that offensive success is starting to translate to this level.

Two things stood out to me this afternoon. The first is Kris Letang’s vision. The defenseman ended up with a pair of primary assists thanks to a couple of tremendous feeds. From the corner, he sent the puck through a wall of Sabres players lined up in the slot right to Wilson, who had drifted into open space at the side of the net. Then from the wall, he almost took a one-timer at the net but realized Kessel was open at the side of the net – so he rocketed a perfect pass right to his blade. I thought Letang was incredibly patient when he had the puck on his stick and wasn’t forcing anything. As head coach Mike Sullivan has said, Letang is at his best when he lets the game come to him and takes what it gives him. That’s exactly what he did today. The second thing I noticed was how Carl Hagelin used his speed to start the plays that led to both of those tallies. He was able to get behind the D on a shorthanded rush and draw a penalty that led to Wilson’s goal, and then negated an icing call and won a race to the puck that led to Kessel’s goal. Oh, not to mention he set up Matt Cullen for the Pens’ fourth goal.

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