Yesterday was another classic “Buffalo” finish. They’re down 2-0 just two minutes into the game, then they storm back to take a 3-2 lead, and then in the blink of an eye, Pittsburgh steals the game back again.
Buffalo allowed two goals just 1:27 into the game against the best team in the Eastern Conference, so they’re pretty much screwed, right? From what we’ve seen so far this season, all signs pointed to yes. Instead, Buffalo stopped the bleeding in the first period by cutting the lead in half, played their best second period all season, and grabbed the lead in the beginning of the third period.
After that, Buffalo completely lost focus and got lazy. They started to look like the team we’re used to watching: turnovers in their own zone, no offensive pressure, allowing their high skilled players walk in the zone unattested. The Sabres tried to play a prevent defense against a team with an offense that’s somewhat unstoppable. Buffalo lost their mental toughness and watched Pittsburgh take the game away.
In the first period, Pittsburgh played like they were about to put on a clinic on how to win games in less than 90 seconds.
Cody Hodgson had the puck when he was skating around the back of his own net, trying to get free to clear the puck out of his own zone. Instead, Pascal Dupuis stripped him of the puck and went in front of the net. Chris Kunitz recovered the loose puck, and fired it to the point for Amherst, NY native, Brooks Orpik. Orpik blasted a shot right at Dupuis in front of the net. Dupuis deflected the shot in-between his legs perfectly, and over Miller’s shoulder to take a 1-0 lead just 35 seconds into the game.
For the amount of traffic in front of the net, I thought Miller put himself in a good position to make the stop. Dupuis deflection, however, was flawless. There’s nothing you can do when you can’t see the puck.
Just 31 seconds after Dupuis’ goal, Tyler Myers would be whistled for high-sticking, which would send out the number two ranked power play on the ice.
Pittsburgh set themselves up in the Buffalo zone with ease. Crosby would gently saucer the puck to Kunitz in the offensive zone. Kunitz immediately put the breaks on, and sent a pass to Malkin at the point. Malkin let a blast go that went just wide of the net and off the back wall. Crosby, who was camping out in front of the net, quickly jumped on the rebound and stuffed it just past Ryan Miller.
The Penguins only needed 19 seconds out of their two minute power play to take a 2-0 lead. With that goal, Sidney Crosby now has at least one point in 14 consecutive games against the Sabres.
Down 2-0 in the first two minutes against the best team in the Eastern Conference…the only positive thing the Sabres had going for them was that Pittsburgh gave Buffalo enough time in the first period to possibly get back in the game.
Five minutes after Crosby’s goal, Buffalo started to wake up a little bit and eventually would cut the lead in half.
Jason Pominville dumped the puck in the Penguins zone, which rolled all the way around the boards and to the point for Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff let a blast go that got knocked down in traffic in front of the net. Hodgson fought off Joe Vitale for the loose puck in front, and buried a wrist shot past a stretched out Marc-Andre Fleury.
Cody Hodgson is tearing it up in front of the net this season. All of his goals have been directly in front of the net, and has created a lot of plays in front as well. He’s one of the best players, if not the best player Darcy’s ever made a move for.
Buffalo would head into the first intermission down 2-1.
In the second period, Buffalo’s offensive lord and savior — Thomas Vanek — would be huge for Buffalo once again.
Sidney Crosby would be called for cross-checking after he shoved Jason Pominville to the ground. On the ensuing face-off, Tanner Glass would be whistled for slashing right as the puck dropped. So just like that, Buffalo had a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes.
Buffalo set up shop in the offensive zone, but couldn’t get a quality scoring chance in the first 90 seconds on the power play. That all stopped when Christian Ehrhoff found Thomas Vanek in front of the net. Ehrhoff sent a hard shot/pass to Vanek who was planted in front of Fleury. Vanek lifted his right leg, and deflected Ehrhoff’s shot through his legs, beating Fleury.
That’s the best second period Buffalo’s had all season. They skated with Pittsburgh for the entire 20 minutes, and got the better scoring chances. They were outshot 11-9, but not all 11 Penguin shots were quality shots on goal. Buffalo had a couple of opportunities in that period where they could’ve headed into the locker room up 3-2.
The third period would start off hot for Buffalo. They came out hungry, and created havoc in front of the net. The Sabres would be rewarded five minutes into the third when Nathan Gerbe set up a goal for Steve Ott.
Ehrhoff had the puck in his own zone when he sent a hard pass to Hecht at center ice. Hecht touched Ehorhoff’s pass up to Gerbe who was already sprinting towards the Penguins zone. Gerbe skated to the middle of the right face-off circle, stopped, and tried getting a shot on goal hoping for a rebound. Instead, the puck was blocked in the slot, but bounced right out to Steve Ott on the opposite wing. Ott had a quick release on his shot, and beat Fleury on the far side.
While everyone was waiting for Drew Stafford to score before he this past Thursday, I’ve been waiting for Nathan Gerbe to get on the score sheet. I understand he battled back from a serious injury, but he’s been in enough games and has had enough opportunities to do something. He’s played well in games, but a lot of the time, he’s missed on some huge chances. It was good to see him get
After Ott gave Buffalo the lead, Pittsburgh took over.
It was almost as if Buffalo had a huge ball of momentum, and just handed it over to the Penguins bench. Instead of handing a fictitious ball of momentum to Pittsburgh, Buffalo would just turn the puck over in their own zone for them. That was their way of handing over the momentum in the game.
Two minutes after the Sabres took the lead, Buffalo would cough it right up.
Pascal Dupuis ripped a shot that got knocked down in traffic. The puck landed right in front of Pominville and Tyler Ennis with Chris Kunitz behind them. Kunitz never stopped moving towards the puck, and pushed it free. The puck got pushed around down low where Leopold would have it, and fan on his clearing attempt. Pittsburgh would recover, and Letang would have it at the point. Letang moved around Pominville, went deep in the zone, and fed a cross ice pass to Dupuis who buried it.
That entire shift was just ugly for Buffalo. The Sabres were out worked for loose pucks, and got lazy when it came to clearing the puck. Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis were straight lazy when Kunitz beat them to the puck. Jordan Leopold’s clearing effort was childish, and it resulted in a goal.
The Penguins would win the game on a play set up by none other, than Sidney Crosby.
Dupuis had the puck deep in Buffalo’s zone when he scooped it around the back of the net for Crosby. Crosby took the puck along the half wall, sent it gently to Paul Martin at the point, and headed toward the net. Martin tee’d up Crosby’s pass, and blasted it in the top left corner. Miller never saw the shot.
Alexander Sulzer was the man on Crosby in front of the net. Instead of shoving Crosby, or trying to clear him out of Miller’s way, he stood there whacking at his stick. If you knock him down, and it’s a penalty, it wouldn’t matter. Miller would’ve seen Martin’s long shot from the point the whole way through.
Buffalo’s performance in the second half of the third period was very lazy. They were out hustled, out worked along the boards, and didn’t give Miller any help whatsoever.
The Sabres are now in 12th place in the conference, and are now four points out of a playoff spot.
– Sidney Crosby now has at least one point in 14 consecutive games against Buffalo.
– Vanek is the sole Goals leader in the NHL (also the sole leader in points).
– Nathan Gerbe’s assist was his first point of the season.
— Buffalo’s next game is Tuesday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets. This is the first meeting between these two teams this season. Puck drop set for 7:05.