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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Sabres 4

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins took an early lead just 47 seconds into the game on Mark Letestu’s first career NHL goal, but Buffalo’s speed and tenacious attack overwhelmed the Penguins during the first half of the game.

Thanks to a power-play goal and two transition scores, Buffalo grabbed a 3-1 lead at the halfway mark of the game. The Penguins regrouped and rebounded strong in the final half of the second period. On the strength of Sidney Crosby’s fifth career hat trick, Pittsburgh tallied four goals in an 8:02-minute stretch to take control of the game.

The Penguins' strong play carried over into the final period. Buffalo made it interesting with a goal with three minutes left to make it a 5-4 contest. The Penguins were forced to play shorthanded for the final two minutes of the game. Marc-Andre Fleury made some clutch saves as Pittsburgh held on for the victory. 
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Sidney Crosby scored three goals in slightly more than eight minutes of the second period as the Pittsburgh Penguins quickly turned a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead, then held on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Monday night.

Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring his hat trick goal agaisnt the Buffalo Sabres
(photo by Getty)
What Went Well: Offensive Explosion
Pittsburgh scored one goal in the first half of the game, and found itself trailing 3-1 on the scoreboard. However, the Penguins offense broke out for four goals in an 8:02-minute span to take a 5-3 lead into the final period. Crosby led the way by netting three goals in the second frame for his fifth career hat trick.

What Could Have Gone Better: Handling Buffalo’s Transition Game
With their speed and pinching defense, the Buffalo Sabres are a dangerous transition team. The Penguins struggled early in the game with stopping the Sabres’ transition attack. Buffalo capitalized on a few Pittsburgh turnovers to create odd-man rushes. The Sabres scored twice on such occasions, and just missed the net on a third occasion.
Forgive me if I’m starting to sound repetitive, but Sidney Crosby was once again the best player on the ice. In the second period alone, the Penguins captain scored three goals to record his fifth career hat trick. It was his third three-goal game of the season, becoming the first Penguin to reach that feat since Alex Kovalev (2001-02).

Crosby finished the game with three goals on five shots and won 61 percent of his faceoffs (11 of 18).
The Penguins struck first in the contest with a goal 47 seconds after the opening faceoff. The Sabres had the puck in the offensive zone when defenseman Craig Rivet pinched to keep the play alive. Kris Letang beat him to the loose puck and pushed it to Tyler Kennedy. Rivet was trapped, and the Penguins had a three-on-one rush. Kennedy, streaking down the far side, made a perfect cross-ice pass to rookie Mark Letestu at the side of the net. Letestu tapped the puck into the net for his first career NHL goal. Pittsburgh 1, Buffalo 0.

The Sabres tied the game with a power-play goal five minutes into the first period, snapping the Penguins streak of 20-straight successful kills. Drew Stafford had the puck in the slot. Marc-Andre Fleury dropped into the butterfly stance in anticipation of the shot but Stafford fanned on the attempt. Derek Roy collected the puck and, with Fleury out of position, sneaked a shot over the goal line. Pittsburgh 1, Buffalo 1.

Buffalo claimed the lead just 48 seconds after tying the game. Roy sneaked a pass through the Penguins defense to spring Thomas Vanek for a one-on-one chance down the far side. Vanek lifted a shot over Fleury for the goal. Buffalo 2, Pittsburgh 1.

The Sabres added to their lead with a tally in he second period. Clarke MacArthur intercepted a Sidney Crosby pass in his own zone and led a three-on-two break for Buffalo. He gained the zone and threw the puck from the far point cross-ice to Mike Grier. Grier made an immediate slap pass to Tim Kennedy, who sneaked through the two Penguins defensemen. Tim Kennedy re-directed the puck into the net. Buffalo 3, Pittsburgh 1.

The Penguins cut into the Sabres’ lead with a power-play tally halfway through the second period. Evgeni Malkin feathered a pass from the near dot through the Buffalo PK box to Alex Goligoski at the midpoint. Goligoski faked a shot and then threw a pass to Crosby in the lower far circle. Crosby one-timed a shot into the goal. Buffalo 3, Pittsburgh 2.

The Penguins tied the game with five minutes remaining in the second period. Malkin carried the puck into the Buffalo zone with speed. He pulled up above the circles and found Jordan Staal trailing down the seam. Staal one-timed a shot from above the circles that sneaked under the right arm of goaltender Ryan Miller. Pittsburgh 3, Buffalo 3.

Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead at the 17:30 mark of the second frame. Miller stopped the puck behind his own net. With Pascal Dupuis in pursuit, Miller made a hard, blind pass to Tyler Myers. The rookie was on his backhand and couldn’t handle the pass. The puck slid free to Crosby, who buried into under the sprawling Miller. Pittsburgh 4, Buffalo 3.

Crosby recorded his fifth career hat trick with 1:04 left in the second period. Letang made a beautiful breakout pass from his own zone to Crosby to setup a two-on-one break. Crosby juked defenseman Toni Lydman to the ice, then he snapped a shot blocker side into the goal. Pittsburgh 5, Buffalo 3.

Jason Pominville made it a one-goal game with three minutes left in the final period when his slap shot from the high slot found its way into the net. Pittsburgh 5, Buffalo 4.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins penalty killers deserve a lot of credit for their work in the final two minutes of the game. Buffalo pulled to within one goal, 5-4, and Pittsburgh was shorthanded in the final two minutes. The Sabres had two extra skaters after pulling their goaltender, but Fleury and the PK unit were able to shut down the Sabres’ power play and preserve the victory.

Kris Letang put on one of his better performances of the season. Letang connected on three beautiful, tape-to-tape breakout passes to jumpstart odd-man opportunities for the Penguins (the team scored on two of them). Letang’s brilliant pass to Sidney Crosby late in the second period allowed the Penguins captain to cruise in on goal and bury his third goal of the frame.

The Penguins stayed with their new forward configurations from their 2-1 shootout victory over Detroit on Sunday. The line combinations were:

An undisclosed injury to defenseman Jay McKee forced him out of the lineup. Martin Skoula took over for McKee. Maxime Talbot (undisclosed) and Eric Godard (groin) also were injury-related scratches.
> Pittsburgh improved to 35-21-1 on the season with a 17-10-1 mark at Mellon Arena.
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, M.Letestu (1), 0:47 1st period: Penguins 1, Sabres 0
BUF, D.Roy PP (12), 5:15 1st period: Penguins 1, Sabres 1
BUF, T.Vanek (17), 6:03 1st period: Sabres 2, Penguins 1
BUF, T.Kennedy (6), 7:32 2nd period: Sabres 3, Penguins 1
PIT, S.Crosby  PP (35), 10:53 2nd period: Sabres 3, Penguins 2
PIT, J.Staal (14), 14:06 2nd period: Penguins 3, Sabres 3
PIT, S.Crosby (36), 17:30 2nd period: Penguins 4, Sabres 3
PIT, S.Crosby (37), 18:55 2nd period: Penguins 5, Sabres 3
BUF, J.Pominville PP (15), 17:00 3rd period: Penguins 5, Sabres 4

> The Penguins are now 11-7-2 all time in their blue jerseys, including a 7-3 mark this season.

> The Penguins are now 53-24-5 in the regular season since head coach Dan Bylsma took over. They have a record of 27-11-2 at Mellon Arena.

> Pittsburgh has successfully killed 29 of its last 34 shorthanded situations (85.3 percent).

> Either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby have figured in on 21 of the last 22 goals for Pittsburgh.

> Sidney Crosby recorded his fifth career hat trick and third of the season – becoming the first Penguin to post three hat trick’s in one year since Alex Kovalev in 2001-02. In the last 13 games, Crosby has 13 goals and 21 points.

> Evgeni Malkin extended his season-long scoring streak to eight games with two assists against Buffalo. He now has 14 points (6G-8A) over that span.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves to record his 28th win of the season.

> Jordan Staal scored his first goal in 13 games. He also played in his 277th consecutive game, moving into sole possession of second place on the Penguins’ all-time list (Nick Harbaruk, 276). 

> Kris Letang posted two assists, his fourth multi-assist game of the season.

> Rookie Mark Letestu scored his first career NHL goal with a tally 47 seconds into the season.
1. S.Crosby
2. K.Letang
3. T.Vanek
"I like the way our guys hung in there when it was 3-1. It could have gone the other way and the guys battled hard in the second and got it back.”
- Dan Bylsma


Author: Sam Kasan

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