What a way to celebrate Hockey Day in America.
Minnesota native Paul Martin scored the game-winning goal with 2:04 left in the third period to lift the Penguins to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon at First Niagara Center.
"I came in off the bench for a change and I think (Sidney Crosby) was trying to pass it," Martin said. "It kind of found its way toward me. I just put it to the net and it went in."
Pascal Dupuis had two goals for the Penguins while Crosby also scored for Pittsburgh (a fitting 87 seconds into the game). Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 30 saves in his sixth start in seven games.
The Penguins got out to an early 2-0 lead just 1:27 minutes into the game, but the Sabres roared back with three straight goals. The Penguins didn’t get down when Steve Ott’s goal gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead in the third period, responding with a hard forecheck and pressure in the offensive zone from all five guys on the ice that resulted in Dupuis’ second of the day to tie the game at 3-3.
The Penguins then produced a big penalty kill in the third after Chris Kunitz went to the box with the score knotted, and Martin came up with a clutch goal late in the game. Overall, it was an entertaining, back-and-forth affair between the two clubs, and in the end the Penguins came away with yet another big road win to improve their road record to 8-2.
"We came out early to get those two goals and things were going well," Martin said. "But they answered back. They have a good team. For us to be patient and continue to work and find a way to win in the end is big on the road."
What a game for Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis.
Dupuis is such a versatile forward who can be used in all situations, especially the penalty kill as he's responsible defensively (prime example: midway through the first, Dupuis saved a goal when he alertly cleared a puck that had sneaked through Fleury and was sitting on the goal line). But on Sunday afternoon, he made his biggest impact in 5-on-5 play by scoring two huge goals against the Sabres, his second one getting the Penguins back in the game as it tied the game at 3-3.
Dupuis’ biggest strength is his speed, which he used to be relentless on pucks and help keep the Sabres trapped in their own end. Another big strength for Dupuis is his shot, which he doesn’t hesitate to get off – and we saw that on his second goal, when he teed off a perfect pass from Kris Letang to beat goalie Ryan Miller.
"Awesome pass there by 'Tanger,' all the way across on the backhand," Dupuis marveled. "I don’t know how he could do that flat on my blade. It was an awesome play."
Overall, Dupuis’ line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz was the Penguins' best all game as they produced a number of solid shifts in the offensive zone and combined for 14 of Pittsburgh's 35 shots on goal (40 percent). Crosby finished with a goal and two assists in the game, meaning he now has points in 14 straight games against the Sabres. During the streak, Crosby has 23 points (8G-15A) while the Penguins have posted an 11-3 record. He has tallied points in all 13 of his visits to the First Niagara Center – totaling 20 points (8G-12A).
When his scoring streak at First Niagara Center was brought up to Crosby following the game, he literally knocked on the wooden bench of his locker stall and joked, "I don’t know if I want to talk about it."
"I think the games are always so fast," he continued. "I think you always expect a fast game. You have to prepare yourself to get up and down the ice. For whatever reason, I’ve been able to put some points up. It’s great ice here. That’s all I can say."
Crosby now has 23 points through 16 games this season, which ranks second in the league.
FIRST 90 SECONDS
Less than 90 seconds into the game, the Penguins had a 2-0 lead.
The first Pittsburgh goal came 35 seconds in when Dupuis re-directed Brooks Orpik’s point shot past goalie Ryan Miller. The second came on a power play 1:27 minutes into the period, when Evgeni Malkin’s shot from the point banked off the back boards to Crosby. It looked like Sabres defenseman Mike Weber would be able to stop Crosby’s attempt from going over the goal line, but he bobbled it and it trickled into the net. The Penguins have now scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games.
Overall, the Penguins got off to the exact start they wanted. They had a strong forecheck, which produced Dupuis’ goal, and had a lot of offensive zone time. However, the Sabres battled back to make this quite a game.
After Crosby was called for cross-checking with 12:21 left in the second period with the Penguins holding a 2-1 lead, Tanner Glass was called for a faceoff violation on the ensuing draw in Pittsburgh’s defensive zone – meaning the Sabres would have a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:58 minutes.
Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik were the three men on the ice for Pittsburgh and they did a fantastic job. At one point Orpik made a great sliding block to break up a play and Adams sacrificed the body for a shot block and a big clear. But the Sabres’ two-man advantage was too much for the Penguins, as the NHL’s leading scorer Thomas Vanek tipped a shot from Christian Ehrhoff to tie the score at 2-2.
While Buffalo’s power play converted that opportunity, Pittsburgh’s penalty killers held them scoreless on a crucial chance in the third period. With 6:18 left in regulation and the score knotted at 3-3, the Penguins had to come up with a huge kill after Kunitz went to the box. A number of different penalty killers came on the ice for Pittsburgh and they were able to weather the storm, keeping the Sabres from getting a go-ahead goal.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo