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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Sabres 3 OT

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The Penguins were in their early-season form when they earned their 11th comeback victory of the season with a 4-3 overtime win in Buffalo. Pittsburgh overcame deficits of 2-0 in the second period and 3-2 in the third. They scored a power-play goal with less than nine minutes to go in regulation to tie the game, 3-3, and then captain Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner 43 seconds into the extra frame.

Pittsburgh needed a strong, bounce back performance after an embarrassing 7-3 loss to Toronto on Saturday. The Penguins responded with a gutsy effort by fighting back after falling behind twice in the game to win the game. One win won't erase the ills of December but it does set them up for a chance to finish strong. 

On the individual front, Crosby ended his nine-game goal-less streak by netting the game-winner. Alex Goligoski had career single-game highs in points (3) and goals (2). Marc-Andre Fleury made several big saves and showed mental toughness to erase his performance against the Leafs with a solid game between the pipes.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) -Sidney Crosby scored 43 seconds into overtime to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Alex Goligoski scored twice and added an assist, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves to help the Penguins rally from a two-goal deficit.

Crosby snapped his nine-game goal-scoring drought when he tipped in Evgeni Malkin's shot past goalie Ryan Miller. The play survived a 2-minute video review that confirmed Crosby's stick was under the crossbar when he touched it.

Pascal Dupuis also scored, and Malkin had three assists for Pittsburgh (18-11-4), which won for the second time in three games and improved to 4-5-1 in December.

Ales Kotalik and Daniel Paille had a goal and assist each, and Clarke MacArthur also scored for the Sabres (16-13-5), who lost their second straight and third in their last four.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Alex Goligoski looks to the hockey gods after tying the game, 3-3, in the third period with his second goal of the game on a power play (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked: Power Play
The Penguins only had one power-play opportunity in the game and they made the most of it. Pittsburgh trailed 3-2 with less than nine minutes left in the third period. The Penguins didn’t generate a lot of offense in the final period and time was ticking away. The man-advantage chance seemed their only hope of tying the game. Pittsburgh converted with a power-play score from Alex Goligoski to tie the game, 3-3, and it would go on to win in overtime. The goal also changed the game's momentum and Pittsburgh carried the play for the rest of the contest.

What Didn't Work: Limiting Shots
The Penguins surrendered 35 shots in the game and Marc-Andre Fleury had to make a number of big saves, including some from point-blank range. Pittsburgh also blocked 14 shots, so the Sabres managed to send 49 pucks towards the Pittsburgh goal. The Penguins were lucky that Fleury played so well or else the game may have had a different outcome. Buffalo was able to crash the net and had some close-range shots but only converted on one of them.
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Alex Goligoski showed why he’s one of the best, young offensive defenseman in the NHL. He recorded his first two-goal game and three-point night in the NHL to help the Penguins defeat the Sabres, 4-3, in overtime. Goligoski logged over 16 minutes of ice time and was a plus-1 on the night.

He scored his first goal with a slap shot from the midpoint that managed to slide through Ryan Miller’s pads. He then scored a power-play goal with 8:43 left in the third period to tie the game at 3-3 with a sneaky wrist shot. He collected the puck at the midpoint with room. Goligoski skated closer to the net and waited for Jordan Staal to set up a screen before he wrist-ed a shot into the top corner. What’s more, Goligoski drew the penalty that led to his own game-tying power-play goal. In overtime, he finished off the Sabres’ by setting the one-timer that led to Crosby's game-winning tip.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Pascal Dupuis returned to the Pittsburgh lineup after missing the previous game with an undisclosed injury. He was injured last Thursday against Atlanta but looked healthy and inspired against the Sabres.

Pittsburgh didn’t get the start that it was looking for with the Sabres jumping out to a 1-0 lead just one minute into the game. Adam Mair won a faceoff in the Penguins zone. Teppo Numminen picked up the win and dropped to Daniel Paille, who switched to his vacated defensive position. Paille sent a wrist shot on goal from above the near circle. Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his crease and dropped into his butterfly stance as the puck was going wide of the goal. However, Philippe Boucher was pushing Adam Mair out from the top of the crease to Fleury’s right. Paille’s shot deflected off of Boucher’s leg and into the net.

Sidney Crosby made a great play to setup a scoring chance for the Penguins midway through the first period. Crosby skated the puck into the Sabres zone and then spun 180 degrees at the halfwall. He sent a pass through two Buffalo players and right onto the stick of Mark Eaton, who was trailing late in the play. Eaton sent a shot onto the net that Ryan Miller stopped. Miroslav Satan was in on goal for a rebound attempt but Miller kept his pad tight to the ice to stop the Penguins winger.

The first period had very little flow to it. Both teams were backing off into defensive postures and neither seemed interested in taking chances by forcing the issue offensively. Each team also did a great job of getting into passing lanes to suffocate the wide-open style of play that the teams’ prefer.

Fleury shook off that early goal and played well for the remainder of the opening frame. With seven minutes left in the first period, the Flower made two big saves. Derek Roy tee-ed up a slap shot/pass to the slot for Clarke MacArthur. He re-directed the shot onto the goal and Fleury followed the puck the entire way to make the save. The rebound bounced back to MacArthur for another opportunity. Fleury quickly kicked out his right pad to stop the second chance. With less than 15 seconds left, Maxim Afinogenov sent a slap shot on net. The puck didn’t get to the net but did end up on Roy’s stick for a point-blank opportunity. Fleury, again, made the save to keep it a 1-0 game.

Fleury came up with another couple of brilliant saves at the beginning of the second period as the Penguins were killing a penalty. First, he slid from his left to his right and quickly hugged the post to stop Jaroslav Spacek sneaking in the back door. He stood tall on Thomas Vanek’s point-blank shot from above the crease. Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer, as the cliché  goes, and Fleury was on that sequence.

A Pittsburgh turnover led to Buffalo’s second goal of the game. The Penguins cleared the puck from their zone but lost control in the neutral zone. Eaton was along the far wall while Kris Letang was by the near wall. Ales Kotalik sneaked into center ice with no one around him. Paille picked up the turnover and fed Kotalik the puck, and he was off on a breakaway. Kotalik faked a move and then sent a quick wrist shot over Fleury’s shoulder.

Pascal Dupuis, playing in his first game since being injured last Thursday, scored the first goal for the Penguins. Brooks Orpik sent a hard shot off the boards in his own zone. The pass caught Buffalo in the middle of changing its lines. Satan picked up the puck at the Sabres blue line. All three Buffalo players on the ice were facing Satan while Dupuis sneaked behind them. Satan made a backhand pass that sent Dupuis in on a breakaway. Dupuis roofed the puck for his seventh goal of the season to make it a 2-1 game.

Relentless effort helped the Penguins tie the game at 2-2. The Ruslan Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora combination cycled the puck down low. Malkin and Sykora battled three Sabres but managed to get the puck low to Fedotenko. The Ukraine native gave the puck back to Malkin, who sent a pass to Alex Goligoski at the point. Fedotenko and Sykora both went to the front of the net. Goligoski sent a shot onto the net that appeared to deflect through Miller’s pads.

The Penguins penalty killing unit was confused and didn’t properly rotate when Buffalo cashed in for a power-play score in the third period. Maxime Talbot left the high right point and drifted with Numminen. No one filled Talbot's old position and Numminen sent the puck to Kotalik in the vacant spot. Both Penguins defensemen tried to jumped out to Kotalik but he ripped the puck onto the net. MacArthur, meanwhile, skated to the top of the crease and was all alone when he picked up Kotalik’s rebound. MacArthur grabbed the puck and went backhand-forehand before depositing the puck into the goal.

Michel Therrien went to the nuclear option in the third period - uniting Crosby and Malkin. Early in the third, Sykora set up Malkin for a one-timer high in the zone. Malkin sent a shot-pass to Crosby on the opposite side of the goal but the Penguins captain was tied up and couldn’t get his stick on the puck. (Though the Penguins would use the same play to score the game-winner in overtime).

I love seeing the way Sykora is playing right now. He’s hustling his rear off and is playing with passion. Sykora is outworking a lot of the opponent’s players. He absorbed a tough blow to the ice racing for a loose puck behind the Buffalo net. He still got up and re-collected the puck for a shot. After a whistle killed the play with the puck stuck in his jersey, Sykora slapped the puck in frustration. But it shows me that he really cares about making something happen. On another occasion, Malkin fell down and was trapped behind the Buffalo net. Sykora alertly assumed the center’s defensive duties and picked up Paille on the counter to prevent a scoring chance.

Goligoski helped even the game by netting Pittsburgh’s third goal of the game. First, he drew a penalty on Paille in the corner. Goligoski finished his check on Paille and then gave him an extra “love tap.” Paille retaliated with a punch to Goligoski’s face, giving the Penguins a power play. Then Goligoski collected the puck at the midpoint on the man-advantage, skated in and then sent a wrist shot through a screen and into the top-right corner of the net. Jordan Staal deserves credit for getting his big body in front of Miller, preventing the Buffalo netminder from having a clear vision of the puck.

Crosby ended his career-long nine-game goal scoring drought in dramatic fashion by deflecting in the game-winning goal 43 seconds into overtime. Goligoski sent a pass to Crosby, who was low to the left of the goal. Crosby threw the puck towards the net on his backhand and raised his arms in a premature celebration because Miller got his left arm on the puck. Malkin picked up the rebound and went to Boucher at the point. Boucher went cross ice to Goligoski. The rookie defenseman skated towards the net and Buffalo dropped back, created a clear pass lane to Malkin atop the far circle. Goligoski set up Malkin for a one-timer and Crosby deflected the high shot into the net. Crosby’s stick was up high and the referees reviewed the play to see if it was above the crossbar when it was re-directed. After the lengthy review, Crosby was finally awarded his first goal in 10 games and Pittsburgh received two points.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved to 18-11-4 on the year, with a 10-6-2 mark on the road. Pittsburgh is 13-7-2 in its last 22 games.

> Daniel Paille notched the game’s first goal one minute into the first period to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. Ales Kotalik upped the advantage, 2-0, with his eighth score of the year at 5:23 of the second period. The Penguins tied the game with goals from Pascal Dupuis (7) and Alex Goligoski (14). Clarke MacArthur reclaimed the lead for Buffalo on his ninth goal at 15:58 of the second period on a power play. Goligoski tied the game, 3-3, with his second goal of the game on a power play at 11:17 of the third period. Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner (14) 43 seconds into the overtime frame.

> Evgeni Malkin recorded three assists against the Sabres to increase his NHL lead to 58 points (15G-43A). Malkin has eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points in his last 13 games. Malkin finished the contest with a game-high plus-3 rating. He currently has a plus-22 rating on the season, the best mark in the NHL.

> Malkin’s 43 assists are a league best. Malkin is on pace for a 100-assist season. Only three players in NHL history have recorded 100-assist seasons (Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzkey and Bobby Orr).

> Malkin is currently riding a nine-game point streak. Over that span, he has accumulated five goals and 14 assists for 19 points. He’s notched an assist in all nine contests, his second longest streak of the season. Malkin recorded an assist in 13-straight games earlier this year, the third-best mark in franchise history.

> Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal against the Sabres. Crosby has eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in his last 15 games. Crosby climbed the rankings and is now second in the league in scoring with 47 points (14G-33A). His 33 assists are second most in the league, behind only teammate Malkin’s 43.

> The Penguins have the top two scorers in the NHL in Malkin (15+43=58) and Crosby (14+33=47). The last time Pittsburgh had the top two scorers in the league was the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux (first) and Jaromir Jagr (second) topped the NHL. The team also had that distinction when Lemieux (first) and Kevin Stevens (second) did it in 1991-92.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves in the victory over the Sabres. Fleury is 6-1-0 in his last eight starts in goal.

> Goligoski recorded his first career two-goal game and first career three-point night after scoring two goals and an assist against Buffalo. It was his first goal since scoring against Buffalo Nov. 15. The rookie blueliner has two goals and five assists for seven points in his last five games.

> Petr Sykora didn’t score against Buffalo but has 14 points in his last nine games (5G-9A). In his past five games, Sykora has two goals and five assists for seven points.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. Alex Goligoski, PIT
2. Clarke MacArthur, BUF
3. Ales Kotalik, BUF
“It took a while. You go through those stints in the season.
Hopefully this will start me off on the right foot from here on in.”
- Sidney Crosby told Versus on snapping his 9-game goal-less streak
 

 


Author: Sam Kasan

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