The Pittsburgh Penguins erased three one-goal deficits Friday, but dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to Buffalo at Mellon Arena.
It was the ninth loss in 10 games for Pittsburgh (8-17-7). The game marked the debut of Penguins head coach Michel Therrien. However, penalties plagued the Penguins as Buffalo capitalized for three power-play goals.
All-time, the Penguins are now 10-9-3 in the first game of a coach's tenure. They are 5-3-0 in the first game after a midseason coaching switch.
“By talking with people around the team, they said it was a better effort and there’s better concentration,” Therrien said. “I think we’re going in the right direction, but we understand we still have a lot of work to do.
“Conditioning-wise, I don’t think we’re right there. I think we’re behind,” he continued. “When this team will be in good condition, I think they are going to be able to be a lot better. When you are in good shape, you are capable to think better and you are capable to make better decisions. When you’re not in good shape, sometimes it’s the opposite – you don’t make the right decisions. A few times [Friday] night, especially in the second period, I believe that we didn’t make the right decisions.”
The Sabres (21-10-1) scored 1:26 into the second period on Daniel Briere’s power-play goal.
The Penguins retaliated 2:02 later when Michel Ouellet scored his first NHL goal. He picked up Mark Recchi’s rebound and slapped it into the goal. Erik Christensen earned the other assist. It was Ouellet’s first goal in four NHL games.
“The last three games I was here, it was not the same. I didn’t play as much as [Friday] night. I had the fortune to play on the power play and I was just at the right spot when the puck came out.”
Jochen Hecht gave the Sabres a 2-1 edge 8:05 into the period. Following a scrum in front of the net, he rifled a shot past a screened Marc-Andre Fleury.
Ryan Malone tied the game with 2:49 left in the second when he wristed a shot past Martin Biron. Tomas Surovy and Ryan Whitney earned the assists. It was the first time since Nov. 19th that the Penguins scored multiple power-play goals in the same game.
However, the Penguins could not sustain the momentum as penalties proved costly.
Buffalo went up, 3-2, with 51.3 seconds remaining in the period when Ales Kotalik one-timed a shot past a sliding Fleury for a power-play goal.
“We took some bad penalties. [Shane] Endicott took some really bad penalties. The first 10 minutes, we were sharp, aggressive and on the puck. Penalties took the momentum away,” Therrien said. “It’s pretty simple. When you don’t skate, you take penalties – you are behind the play. When you skate, you are ahead of the play and you are able to create some momentum. Some guys took penalties because they were not skating or had bad positioning. This is something we’re definitely going to address. I am disappointed about the amount of bad penalties we took [Friday] night.”
The Penguins calmed down in the third period and limited Buffalo to four shots. Ziggy Palffy eventually scored to knot the game at 3-all with 2:17 left in regulation. He took a pass from Sidney Crosby on the near post and shot it at the net. The puck landed in Biron’s glove and was initially ruled a save. However, video replays showed the puck had crossed the goal line and the ruling on the ice was overturned to tie the game.
“We were talking about a few things between the periods and the players were pretty receptive. We only had six shots in that third period, but we only allowed four,” Therrien said. “We were able to cause some turnovers. It’s just a matter of making sure we have better execution with the puck. Those things are coming.”
Chris Drury scored a power-play goal 1:32 into overtime on a 4-on-3 to win the game.
The two teams meet Saturday at 5 p.m. in Buffalo.
ICE CHIPS: John LeClair, Ryan VandenBussche, Ric Jackman and Eric Boguniecki were the Penguins’ scratches…Ryan Miller, Dmitri Kalinin and Andrew Peters were the Buffalo scratches…The announced attendance was 16,648.