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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Sabres 2

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Recap (AP)    Highlights | Therrien | Crosby | Staal | Goligoski | Photos |  11-15 Mike Lange Highlights |  11-15 Penguin Soundbytes (Crosby, Staal, Therrien) |  11-15 Penguins Hotline |  11-15 Crash The Net 

Another game, another late third-period comeback. The Penguins continue to flirt with disaster, yet escaped unscathed and with two points. Pittsburgh trailed for the fourth straight game in the third period and didn't panic. The club plays loose from behind and seems to believe that it's only a matter of time before they tie the game and get the win. And you can't argue with them because they've pulled it off every time.

Evgeni Malkin continued his hot run as the best player in the National Hockey League with four points - one goal and three assists - and stretched his consecutive-point streak to 13 games. Malkin took his game to another level last season with Sidney Crosby lost to a high ankle sprain. He may be playing even better this season. He's excelled in his new position on the power play, netting a goal and assist with the man-advantage against Buffalo. Malkin isn't as flashy as some players in the NHL but he gets results and racks up points. Bottom line: Malkin is the best player in the league, hands down.

It was a huge bounce back game for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 21 saves to get the victory. Fleury struggled in his last two outings, giving up six goals to Detroit and four goals to Philadelphia before being pulled after the second period. Fleury made several key saves, particularly early in the game, to give Pittsburgh a chance to pull of its comeback. Fleury has a strong head and his confidence wasn't shaken by the struggles. He responded with a great effort.
The Penguins overcame their fourth-straight third-period deficit to win their sixth straight game. Pittsburgh notched four goals in the third period, all in the final nine minutes, to transform a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Mellon Arena on Saturday night.

Evgeni Malkin led the way for Pittsburgh with four points on one goal and three assists. His 30 points and 23 assists on the season lead the NHL. Jordan Staal scored two goals to give him seven on the year.

The Sabres sandwiched Malkin’s goal with scores from Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek for a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period. Pittsburgh responded with four unanswered goals in the third period from Alex Goligoski, Staal (2) and Ruslan Fedotenko.

  Matt Cooke sends Toni Lydman airborne (photo by Getty)
What Worked: Power Play
Pittsburgh’s power play gave up two shorthanded goals in its previous game. Coming into the matchup with Buffalo, the Sabres had allowed only one power-play goal in seven road games this season. Formula for failure? Not with the talent the Penguins have. The Penguins scored two power-play goals, including the key game-tying score in the third period. The second power-play goal was a result of some beautiful passes.

What Didn't Work: Start of the Game
Buffalo took the play to the Penguins in the opening 10 minutes of the period. Pittsburgh played on its heels and the Sabres were beating them to loose pucks, creating chances and had a heavy edge in possession time. Their pressure was rewarded with the game’s first goal of the game. Buffalo played the night before the game but started at full speed and with high intensity.
Evgeni Malkin tallied his second four-point night of the season, playing a role in four of Pittsburgh’s five goals. First, he blasted a slap shot into the net in the second period on a power play from the midpoint. He set up the team’s second goal, also on a power play, with a nifty fake shot. Paul Gaustad dropped to the ice to block the perceived shot, but Malkin reloaded as the Buffalo penalty killers scrambled. Malkin then started a tic-tac-toe pass sequence that ended with Alex Goligoski’s game-tying goal. Malkin led a three-on-two rush late in the third period. He skated at full speed to the net and then dropped a pass to Ruslan Fedotenko, who one-timed the puck into the goal. In the game’s final minute, Malkin had the puck in the neutral zone and backhand floated a pass to Jordan Staal, who scored on an empty netter.
The Buffalo Sabres played the night before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets but it was the Penguins who looked a step behind early in the game. Buffalo had a major edge of possession time inside the Penguins zone. Pittsburgh was having trouble getting the puck out of the zone, and when it did the Penguins couldn’t get mount any pressure in the Sabres zone.

Buffalo got on the board first when Jason Pominville lifted a rebound over a sprawled out Marc-Andre Fleury. Defenseman Andrej Sekera sent a slap shot on net. Fleury made the initial save but the rebound fell to his left and he didn’t have time to re-set himself before Pominville shot the puck. Fleury reached out but the puck had already gone in the net for Pominville’s seventh goal of the season.

Fleury made an incredible save on a Sabres power play to keep it a one-goal game. Derek Roy had the puck at the top right point and sent a diagonal pass to Jaroslav Spacek, who was set up to the left of the crease. Fleury was set up at the top right of his crease. When the pass was made, he kicked off his right skate and slid on his pads into position for Spacek’s shot. The puck hit Fleury’s left pad and died in front of him, where he promptly covered it with his glove.

Fleury flashed his glove on the very next penalty kill. A Buffalo wrap-around attempt deflected off of a skate and right to Maxim Afinogenov near the left faceoff dot. He laser-ed a shot on net. Fleury again slid from his right to his left and snatched the puck with his glove.

Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke and Jordan Staal saw action up front with Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik on the backend on a few Pittsburgh’s power plays. The unit got an extended look during the game.

The Ruslan Fedotenko-Malkin-Petr Sykora line had a great shift in the second period, holding the puck in the Sabres zone for over a minute. During that time Sykora and Fedotenko made diving plays to get their sticks on Buffalo passes, disrupting the Sabres attempt to clear the puck.

Pittsburgh lost a goal when the referees blew a play dead while the puck was uncovered. Ryan Miller stopped a shot from the point with Maxime Talbot in front. Miller flopped to cover the puck but it squeezed through his pads. The ref blew the whistle as Crosby picked up the puck and shot a backhander into the net. The jumbotron horn blew but it was premature as the goal did not count.

Malkin stretched his streak of consecutive games with a point by scoring his seventh goal of the season to tie the game, 1-1. The Penguins were on a power play when Alex Goligoski sent a slap shot on net. The rebound came back to him and Goligoski sent a pass to Malkin at the midpoint. Malkin ripped a shot that handcuffed Miller. The puck hit the Sabres goalie but fell behind him and sputtered over the goal line.

The Malkin goal ignited the Penguins. They controlled the play for nearly the rest of the period and took it to the Sabres. All four lines played keep-away in the Buffalo zone and generated scoring chances. Kennedy had a shot glance off of the crossbar. Pascal Dupuis had an inspired shift during that stretch. He skated hard, won races for loose pucks and setup Eric Godard with a great chance in the slot.

The Sabres killed the Penguins momentum with a power-play goal with 45.4 seconds left in the second period. Mark Eaton was covering Thomas Vanek at the top of the crease when Clarke MacArthur collected the puck low to the left of the goal. Vanek used Eaton’s body to create separation. Vanek pushed himself backwards with a cross-check motion on the back of Eaton to get space. Eaton turned to recover his position but MacArthur sent a cross-crease, backdoor pass to Vanek, who buried it for his league-leading (tied) 13th goal of the season.

Godard had another great opportunity as a result of some great effort by Malkin. The Russian star raced into the corner of the Sabres zone to negate an icing call. He then dropped the puck to Fedotenko, who fed it to Godard in the slot. Godard got off a shot but Miller stood tall to make the stop.

The Penguins tied the game with a great pass sequence on a power play. Malkin wound up for a fake shot and Paul Gaustad slid to block the pass. With Gaustad on the ice, Malkin passed to a wide-open Crosby along the near boards. The Sabres shifted to pressure Crosby as Goligoski headed towards the net. Crosby sent a hard pass through the middle of the penalty killers to Goligoski, who skated in and scored.

Fleury made another spectacular save on Roy on a breakaway. Roy sped past the Penguins defense and was one-on-one with the Great Flower. His shot went off of Fleury’s right pad. Roy collected the rebound behind the net and tried a centering feed, but Fleury intercepted that and covered for the whistle.

Staal was the beneficiary of the some great passing, when he nailed his sixth goal of the season. Kennedy was fighting for a puck in the corner. Staal was parked in the slot with Teppo Numminen on him. Kennedy gained possession and cycled the puck behind the net. Cooke picked it up there uncovered. Numminen peeled off Staal and skated towards Cooke, who sent a pass that Staal one-timed into the net.

The Sabres were sending their defensemen deep in an effort to get the tying goal. When Pittsburgh chipped the puck out of the zone, Malkin picked it up for a three-on-two with Sykora and Fedotenko. Malkin drove hard to the net with Sykora while Fedotenko trailed back. With both defensemen playing deep, Malkin dropped to the puck to Fedotenko in the slot and he blasted in his fourth goal of the season and a 4-2 lead.

Staal notched his second goal of the game with an empty-netter on a similar play to his previous empty-net goal. Malkin had the puck along the wall and lifted a centering pass to Staal, who glided the puck into the net.
> Pittsburgh improved to 11-4-2 on the year, with a 6-1-1 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 6-0-0 in the month of November. It’s also the fourth straight game that Pittsburgh has won when they trailed in the final nine minutes of the third period.

> The Penguins have won their last five games against Buffalo.

> Jason Pominville scored his seventh goal of the season to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 8:14 of the first period. Evgeni Malkin got Pittsburgh on the board with a power-play goal in the second period. Thomas Vanek notched his league-leading (tied) 13th goal of the season on a power play with 45.4 seconds left in the second period. Pittsburgh scored four unanswered goals in the third period. Alex Goligoski scored his third power-play goal of the season to tie the game at 11:43 of the third period. Jordan Staal gave Pittsburgh the lead, 3-2, on a one-timer at 15:27. Ruslan Fedotenko extended the lead 1:02 later with his own one-time goal. Staal scored his second goal of the game and seventh of the season with an empty netter with 24 seconds left in the game.

> Pittsburgh outshot Buffalo, 25-23, in the game. The Penguins have only been outshot once in their past six games.

> Following Malkin’s four-point effort (1G-3A) versus Buffalo, he is the NHL’s leading scorer with 30 points on seven goals and 23 assists. His 23 assists are also a league best. Malkin is on pace to notch over 100 assists (111) on the season, a feat only accomplished by three players in NHL history (Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux).

> Evgeni Malkin recorded four points (1G-3A) against Buffalo. He’s registered at least one point in 16 of Pittsburgh’s 17 games this season. He’s also riding a 13-game scoring streak, the longest in the NHL this season. During that stretch he’s compiled 27 points (6G-21A). He’s one game shy of tying Mario Lemiuex’s club record of 14.

> Sidney Crosby notched an assist against Buffalo. He currently has 22 points this season, tied for third most in the NHL. Crosby’s 16 assists are the second most in the league, trailing teammate Malkin’s 23. He’s notched a point in five of his last six games, totaling three goals and six assists for nine points during that span.

> Staal scored two goals in the game. He’s recorded five goals in his past three games, including a hat trick at Detroit (Nov. 11), and six goals in his past six games.

> Matt Cooke notched an assist against Buffalo. He’s currently on a four-game point streak with one goal and four assists in the stretch. Cooke’s registered a point in five of his last six games.

> Petr Sykora has two goals and six assists in the month of November (six games).

> Kris Letang has registered an assist in five of his last six games.

> Goligoski recorded his first career two-point game with a goal and assist against Buffalo. He scored his third career power-play goal. He’s notched a point in five of his past six games, with two goals and four assists for six points in that stretch.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 75th straight game with a standing room attendance of 17,132.
1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
2. Jordan Staal, PIT
3. Alex Goligoski, PIT
“I think he knows how good he is. He’s got a lot of confidence.”
- Head coach Michel Therrien on Evgeni Malkin



Author: Sam Kasan

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