The Penguins continue to get results in tough games against teams that are battling for the playoffs.
Pittsburgh got contributions from James Neal and Zbynek Michalek – each recording a goal and an assist – and Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves as Pittsburgh pulled out a tight-checking 3-1 victory against Buffalo at CONSOL Energy Center.
In the past three games against the hottest teams in the NHL, starting with New Jersey and Boston, the Penguins have now racked up five of a possible six points. The Penguins are 3-0-2 in their past five games.
The Penguins, much as they have over the past few weeks, put on their hard hats and took care of business the old blue-collared way to top the Sabres. Pittsburgh outhit, outshot and outhustled Buffalo.
Neal and Matt Niskanen are looking more and more comfortable with the new system, and Alex Kovalev has added a gifted skill set to the team. But the Penguins are also starting to get healthier, as Chris Kunitz returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury.
The win kept the Penguins within two points of the Eastern Conference/Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia Flyers.
It took seven games, but finally newly acquired power forward James Neal got on the scoresheet for the Penguins. In fact, his name appears twice.
Neal recorded a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, his first points in a Penguins uniform since joining the club in a Feb. 21 trade with Dallas.
Neal scored his first goal (and point) for the black and gold just 1:25 into the second period to tie the game at 1-1. Deryk Engelland pinched low and flipped a perfect pass to Neal at the side of the cage. Neal threw a turning shot on goal that beat Ryan Miller on the far side.
Neal helped set up Zbynek Michalek’s first goal as a Penguin just three minutes later. After carrying the puck low in the zone, Neal whipped a pass to Michalek on the point. The Czech took care of the rest.
Neal finished the game with one goal, two points, a plus-3 and four shots in 16:13 of ice time.
There was no major significant event that caused a shift in the Penguins’ direction. Pittsburgh, while not dominating, certainly looked in control of the game, and it was only a matter of time before they notched a few goals.
That being the case, the first goal did get them rolling. Jordan Staal, returning to the ice after taking a stick to the face, won an offensive zone faceoff and dropped the puck to Deryk Engelland on the point.
Engelland charged down the near side and flipped a pass through a Sabre and right to James Neal at the side of the cage. Neal’s turning shot whipped past goalie Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1-1. The Penguins scored a second goal just three minutes later and were off and running.
(AP) - James Neal and Zbynek Michalek each scored for the first time as members of the Penguins with goals 3:17 apart early in the second period and Pittsburgh continued its recent mastery of the Buffalo Sabres with a 3-1 win Tuesday night.
Mark Letestu also had a goal and Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for Pittsburgh, which swept the season series with the Sabres in winning their sixth consecutive game against them.
- Two Penguins recorded their first goals of the year in the black and gold uniform. James Neal, who joined the club two weeks ago, and Zbynek Michalek each scored a goal for Pittsburgh. For Michalek, the goal was his first in 92 games (Jan. 14, 2010 vs. New Jersey).
- Jordan Staal had a scare at the start of the second period. Off the opening faceoff, Staal got low while fighting for the puck. A Sabres’ stick came up and clipped him in the face. The athletic trainers stitched him up and he didn’t even miss a shift. In fact, on his next shift out, he won a faceoff in the offensive zone and two seconds later the Penguins scored to tie the game. Staal earned the second assist.
- Even with the score in favor of Pittsburgh, 3-1, in the final minute of the game, there was certainly some drama. Typically with a two-goal lead and an empty net staring him down, Marc-Andre Fleury likes to take a crack at scoring. This time, however, he shot from 30 feet out of his net and his attempt was blocked. Fluery scrambled to get back while his teammates kept the puck out of danger.
- The Penguins got a little healthier in the contest as left winger Chris Kunitz was back on the ice after missing the past 13 games with a lower-body injury. Kunitz logged 15:56 minutes of ice time and delivered a game-high five hits.
- The Penguins have swept the season series against Buffalo, 4-0. They’ve won the season series four times in the last five years and nine of the last 11. Pittsburgh has won six straight games now, and are 8-1-1 in its last 10 at home against the Sabres.
#1. Zbynek Michalek
Defenseman - 4
1 goal, 1 assist
4 blocked shots
#2. James Neal
Left Wing - 18
1 goal, 1 assist
#3. Marc-Andre Fleury
1 goal allowed
Author: Sam Kasan