|“We always have high-flying, tight games (in Buffalo) so that is what we expect on Saturday.” |
Those were the words spoken by Marc-Andre Fleury at practice earlier this week and did they ever prove prophetic.
The game began with the Penguins continuing to disprove the theory that the opening goal is a critical element to winning a hockey game. For the 20th time in 36 games they surrendered the opening tally but once again quickly erased Jason Pominville’s goal with one of their own off the stick of Chris Kunitz to send the game into the first intermission all knotted, 1-1.
Neither team could muster a goal over the final two periods as the play was fast and furious. Fleury at one end and Patrick Lalime at the other made several clutch saves to send the game beyond regulation. Yet again the Penguins took advantage of the shootout as Kris Letang tallied the only goal and Fleury stopped all three chances against him.
Letang’s game-deciding goal gives the Penguins a five-game winning streak heading into a first-place showdown with the New Jersey Devils on Monday night at Mellon Arena. Look for the Penguins and the home crowd to be ready as Pittsburgh tries to defeat the Devils for the first time this season.
|WHAT HAPPENED |
|BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and stopped three more tries in the shootout, and Kris Letang scored the only goal in the tiebreaker in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. |
Chris Kunitz scored in regulation for Pittsburgh. The Penguins (25-10-1) have won five straight and 11 of their last 14.
|SHOT OF THE NIGHT |
Marc-Andre Fleury stops Drew Stafford to secure the victory
(photo by Getty)
|What Worked Well: Penalty Kill |
The Penguins penalty kill has shot up to ninth overall at 83.3 percent heading into Saturday’s late games after killing off all eight Buffalo power plays. Buffalo was given one power play with just over two minutes remaining in regulation and then another in the overtime period but the Penguins sacrificed their body numerous times and slammed the door on both occasions.
What Could Have Gone Better: Hitting the Net
Pittsburgh caught a break by facing Patrick Lalime and not Vezina Trophy candidate Ryan Miller in goal. There were several instances where Lalime was caught out of position but the Penguins had 20 of their shot attempts blocked by Buffalo and 19 more missed the net.
|Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational between the pipes and Kris Letang came up huge in the shootout once again but Craig Adams gets the nod on this night. Adams has yet to find the back of the net in 2009-10 but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a huge reason why the Penguins have a league-leading (tied) 25 wins. |
Adams saw over half of his 13:09 of ice time when the Penguins were shorthanded as the Penguins killed off all eight Buffalo power plays. He was especially good during the Sabres man-advantage in the overtime period as he twice put his body in front of shots.
|SCORING SYNOPSIS |
|Clarke MacArthur’s slap shot from the right point was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury but the rebound landed right on the blade of Jason Pominville in the slot and his wrist shot eluded Fleury to opening the scoring. Buffalo 1, Pittsburgh 0. |
Great forechecking by Sidney Crosby, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz allowed the Penguins to tie the score late in the first period. Crosby stole the puck in the near corner and dropped a pass back to Kunitz at the bottom of the circle. Kunitz just threw the puck towards the net and it found its way past Patrick Lalime on the short side. Pittsburgh 1, Buffalo 1.
Kris Letang went to his backhand to roof a shot over Lalime for the only goal of the shootout as Fleury denied Pominville, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. Pittsburgh 2, Buffalo 1.
|INTRIGUING NOTABLES |
|Buffalo had a great chance early in the game to open the scoring when back-to-back penalties to Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang gave them 1:05 to work on a five-on-three power play. The Sabres managed only one shot as the Penguins killed off both minors. |
Mark Eaton had to leave the contest in the second period after falling hard into the boards after getting tangled with Buffalo’s Mike Grier just seconds after stopping a one-on-one against Grier. The Penguins had plenty of practice competing with just five defenders earlier in the season when Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang all left games early due to injury. Gonchar and Alex Goligoski picked up a majority of the minutes left behind as Gonchar saw 27:08 of ice time and Goligoski spent exactly 24 minutes on the ice.
It was a rough night between the pipes for the goaltenders as each was knocked to the ice as both teams focused on crashing the net. Drew Stafford collided with Mark Andre-Fleury during a rush into the Penguins zone in the first period on a play where no penalty was called. In the second period Sabres defenseman Craig Rivet ran teammate Patrick Lalime over as he was skating into the zone with Mike Rupp. Lalime was able to stay in the game after being down for a couple minutes.
|GAME NOTES |
|> Scoring Summary: |
BUF, J. Pominville (8), 15:05 1st period: Sabres 1, Penguins 0
PIT, C. Kunitz (4), 19:21 1st period: Penguins 1, Sabres 1
SO, (K. Letang), Penguins 2, Sabres 1
> The Penguins won their NHL-best (tied) 25th game of the season and now have a 25-10-1 record through the first 36 games of the season, including a 13-5 mark away from Mellon Arena.
> The Penguins 25th win of the season came in their 36th game, the earliest the club has reached 25 wins in team history. The previous mark was 37 games set by the 1992-93 squad.
> Since head coach Dan Bylsma took over on Feb. 15 of last season the Penguins have an overall record of 43-13-5 and are 21-7-3 on the road.
> Pittsburgh is 13-3-1 since Evgeni Malkin’s return on Nov. 14 against the Boston Bruins. The Penguins are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games.
> The Penguins are now 9-1 when the game stretches beyond 60 minutes in 2009-10, including a perfect 6-0 in the shootout. They are also 3-0 all-time against the Sabres in the shootout.
> Sidney Crosby’s assist on Chris Kunitz’s first period goal extended his scoring streak to four games (2G-4A). Crosby now has 18 points (10G-8A) over the past nine games that he has played. The Penguins are 20-3 when Crosby records a point.
> When Crosby was stopped by Patrick Lalime in the shootout it marked the first time this season Crosby was unsuccessful in the breakaway competition. Crosby is 5-for-6 in the shootout in ’09-10.
> Chris Kunitz’s goal in the opening period was his first since missing 13 games with an undisclosed injury. Kunitz has three points (1G-2A) in the past two games.
> Kris Letang scored for the second-consecutive game in the shootout and is 3-for-6 in such situations on the year. Letang’s three game-deciding goals rank first in the NHL.
> Marc-Andre Fleury’s victory gave him 21 on the season, second-most in the league, one behind Martin Brodeur. Fleury has now stopped 12 of the 13 shots he has faced in the shootout this season.
> Fleury improved to 4-0 this season in the shootout and has an all-time record of 17-11.
|THREE STARS ||QUOTE OF THE NIGHT |
| || |
|1. M. Fleury |
2. P. Lalime
3. K. Letang
|"He's tough to beat in practice, and it shows in the games." |
- Sidney Crosby on Marc-Andre Fleury