Pittsburgh had to regroup after Buffalo scored three unanswered goals in the first period of their matchup on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Tom Kuhnhackl and Nick Bonino each scored shorthanded goals just 24 seconds apart to round out a second period filled with four Pens tallies that turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead.
After an extra period and a shootout, the Pens finally defeated the Sabres 5-4.
“We scored two goals that helped us climb back into the game at a key time,” head coach Mike Sulivan said.
It was the first time the Pens scored multiple shorthanded goals in the same game since Feb. 8, 2012. It was also the fastest time between two shorties since Dec. 13, 1990 (12 seconds).
Kuhnhackl, who also finished with an assist, became the first Pens rookie to record more than one shorthanded marker in a season since Jordan Staal (the other came against Tampa Bay on Feb. 20, which was his first NHL goal).
The rookie gave credit to veteran Matt Cullen for his tap-in on the 2-on-1 breakaway.
“I just gave it to Cullen early because I knew I would panic with the puck,” Kuhnhackl joked. “I'm just happy he set up that great backdoor tap-in for me.”
On the second shorty, Carl Hagelin used his speed to get in on the forecheck and strip the puck from Sabres goalie Chad Johnson, who had gone behind the net to play it.
Hagelin quickly gave it to his even-strength linemate Bonino, who was wide-open in front and stuffed it into the wide-open net for his second goal in three games.
Overall, there were eight penalties between the two teams. Pittsburgh did surrender a pair of power-play goals to Buffalo, who went 2-for-3 on the night, but Cullen said it’s the game’s outcome that matters.
“As a penalty-killing group we were disappointed when we give anything up,” Cullen said. “But it was nice to get those back and be positive for the team.”
While Lovejoy and Conor Sheary picked up goals and Phil Kessel netted the game-deciding shootout tally, it was Kuhnhackl and Bonino’s markers that helped the resurgence.
“What I like about our team is that we find ways to win,” Sullivan said. “We’re getting different people at different times to step up and help us win. These kind of experiences should make us a better team going into the future."