Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 3-2 setback to the Buffalo Sabres:
NEAL KEEPS ROLLING
Somebody better get James Neal
some water, because he’s on fire.
The Penguins winger scored his NHL-leading fifth goal of the season on Saturday in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 loss to Buffalo at CONSOL Energy Center, reaching that total through just six games.
On the play, Neal grabbed the puck on the halfwall and quickly turned and sent a shot to the net. It deflected off Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr in front of the cage and past goalie Jhonas Enroth just two minutes into the second period.
“I always want to put it on the net and be at the net,” Neal, 23, said. “That’s where you’re going to score your goals. When you are playing with some good playmakers and great players like I’ve been playing with, you’re going to put yourself in spots to get shots off.”
Neal’s “shoot first” mentality has him throwing pucks to the cage like there’s no tomorrow. He’s been shooting from anywhere and everywhere, leading the Penguins with 24 shots – and it’s paying off.
“He’s hot right now. It seems like he’s shooting a small bucket of pucks every game,” Penguins center Jordan Staal
said. “He likes to fire the puck and he has a great shot. Just glad to see him shooting it.”
Another Penguin who had a solid outing on Saturday was Staal.
Staal scored a big goal when he cut the Sabres’ lead to 3-2 late in the third by driving to the net and sending a loose puck past Enroth. Staal has quietly been putting up offense over the Penguins’ first six games, notching two goals and five points over that span.
) did a great job of just driving wide. He did another good job just throwing it to the net,” Staal said. “It was fortunate enough to bounce right there. I just tried to get something on it and was lucky it went in.”
Added Neal, “There was a good goal by ‘Staalsy’ and it lifted our bench big time. Those are key goals that you need to get to keep yourselves in the game.”
Staal, 23, also put forth an impressive effort in the faceoff circle – winning 68 percent of his draws (13-for-19). He led all Penguins forwards with 20:19 of ice time and threw three hits.
NOT GIVING UP
Despite playing Carolina the night before, the Sabres came out flying on Saturday – putting the Penguins back on their heels and taking a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.
But the Penguins regrouped during the first intermission and played a much stronger game over the final 40 minutes – starting with Neal’s goal just over two minutes into the second. It got the sold-out crowd at CONSOL Energy Center back into the game and cut the Sabres’ lead to one.
And although Buffalo regained its two-goal lead over halfway into the third, the Penguins kept pushing – making the score 3-2 when Jordan Staal
crashed the net and sent a loose puck past Enroth.
The Penguins pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
with about two minutes left and were able to keep play hemmed in their offensive zone over that span. And though they ultimately fell short, the effort was there.
“We were pushing hard,” Neal said. “Ultimately if we get one in the end, momentum shifts. We’ve got the type of team that can come back from games like that. But with the little breakdowns that we had, we kind of gave them a couple goals there and that cost us big time.”
Added Staal, “It was a good third-period effort, I guess. It was still a mistake giving them that third goal. We didn’t quit, but obviously it’s kind of too little, too late.”
MALKIN SITS OUT
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin
sat out Saturday’s game with soreness in the scar of his surgically-repaired knee.
He has now missed three of Pittsburgh’s last four games.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo