PITTSBURGH - The Buffalo Sabres opened their inaugural season 50 years ago with a win in Pittsburgh.
On Thursday, in the first game of their Golden Season, the Sabres skated away with a 3-1 victory over the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
Conor Sheary scored twice, Rasmus Dahlin added another, and Carter Hutton made 28 saves in net as the team earned their first victory of the year. It was also Buffalo's first regulation win against Pittsburgh since April 23, 2013.
Video: Sheary scores two as Sabres defeat Pens for first win
The result of a tight forecheck and heavy pressure in the defensive zone, Buffalo jumped out to an early lead and was able to frustrate and smother the Penguins throughout the night.
"We've been working on very high-pressure systems so you need to be in excellent shape, which all of these guys came into training camp in," head coach Ralph Krueger, who earned his first win with Buffalo, said. "We need to keep our feet moving and skating all the time.
"It's a lot to ask day in and day out, but these guys are committed to do that, and it really took away the room and space that Pittsburgh likes to play in. We were able to do that right through the game."
Video: Ralph Krueger Walkoff Interview
The Sabres controlled play for much of the first, pressing in the offensive zone and pressuring Pittsburgh's entry at their own blue line.
"That was probably our best part of the game tonight," Casey Mittelstadt, who had two assists, said. "You work on it a lot in training camp and with a new coach, you're figuring it out a little bit. Then you get going and everyone starts to feel the speed and feel the pace. Once you do that, it seems to go pretty smoothly so it was good tonight."
When Sheary scored to make it 1-0 at the 5:23 mark of the first, the Sabres held a 10-2 edge in shots. They ended up outshooting Pittsburgh 41-29 by the end of the game.
"Last year, we didn't end the way we wanted to, but we know we're a good team in here and we added a couple new pieces that will really help us take that next step," Sheary said. "I think tonight we proved that and if we continue to work hard every game, I think we'll get good results."
Video: BUF@PIT: Sheary scores opening goal from the circle
Sheary, a former Penguin, now has four goals and two assists in four games against his former club.
"You just want to prove to people that you can still play," he said. "You kind of get the feeling that someone doesn't want you when they trade you. I think I took that to heart so coming back here is always fun."
Sheary's first goal was the result of strong play along the boards by his centerman, Mittelstadt. Capitalizing on a turnover on the right-wing half-wall, Mittelstadt fed the puck to Sheary whose quick snipe beat Matt Murray.
"It was a good play," Sheary said. "He knocked down a turnover and then found me under the stick there. I just tried to get it off quick. I think the changeup fooled him a little bit, but I'll take it."
Clicking in all facets
Video: BUF@PIT: Sheary cleans up loose puck for second goal
The Sabres had only two power-play opportunities in the game and they came consecutively in the second period. Buffalo generated six shots with the man advantage and broke through with Sheary's second of the night with 5:57 remaining in the second.
With Sheary and Mittelstadt creating traffic in front of goaltender Matt Murray, a shot from defenseman Colin Miller from the point went off Murray's left pad. Mittlestadt was able to shuffle it to Sheary, who hit the back of the net.
Video: POSTGAME: Mittelstadt
Buffalo's penalty kill, meanwhile, went 4-for-5 on the night (the only blemish was a power-play goal by Evgeni Malkin early in the second period), including back-to-back kills midway though the third period and another with 2:21 remaining.
That final push by Pittsburgh led to a 6-on-4 advantage for the Penguins, but the home team managed just two shots in that time. Hutton came up with a pair of big stops in the final 4 seconds before the final horn sounded.
"I'm just so proud and pleased of the effort that we had in all areas today," Krueger said. "We began with a fury in the first 10 minutes, dominating, and to get the lead was good for our confidence. The guys never let off the gas. We stayed on our toes right through to the finish line.
"Our specialty teams really got us the win in the end. Great PKs, strong power play and the goaltending - everybody contributed; everybody participated and we played it from start to finish. Very pleased with that effort."
You'll want to watch that one again
Rasmus Dahlin finished the game with 15:45 of ice time and three shots, but it's this top-shelf snipe that will have people talking the most. A slick pass from Sam Reinhart sent Dahlin off to roof the puck past Murray:
Video: BUF@PIT: Dahlin flips puck over Murray's glove
The Sabres will return to practice on Friday as they ready themselves for Saturday's home opener against the New Jersey Devils.
"We're all in this together and that's the important thing. There's a very honest environment and we haven't achieved anything here yet with this win today," Krueger said. "We're just at the very beginning of a long, long, difficult challenge to go where we want to go.
"But I'm pleased that through training camp, the openness and willingness for everybody to understand what we need to do to be a competitive team has been there since Day 1. You can't ask for more as a coach and we will just continue to try and build on this one."