When you win 15 games in a row, you're probably due for a game like this.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, playing without Sidney Crosby for the first time since he suffered a broken jaw, saw their winning streak come to an end Tuesday night with a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, ending a streak that lasted the entire month of March and launched them to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
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The winning streak was tied for the second-longest in NHL history with the 1981-82 New York Islanders and fell two short of the NHL record set by the 1992-93 Penguins.
Tomas Vokoun, coming off of back-to-back shutouts, was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals. His shutout streak, which lasted more than 170 minutes, ended early in the first period after a brutal giveaway by Matt Niskanen on the power play resulted in a shorthanded goal for Buffalo's Kevin Porter.
That ended up being the story of the night for the Penguins as they struggled to get the puck out of their own zone at times and clearly missed defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin on their blue line and the puck-moving mobility they provide.
Letang has been injured for a while, but Martin's absence is a new one. In the two games they've played without him, the Penguins have been outshot 64 to 47 overall and 47 to 37 during 5-on-5 play. A lot of that can be attributed to the loss of their top two defensemen as the unit takes on a decidedly different look without them.
Still, even without those two -- and Crosby -- it seemed like a matchup that favored the Penguins given that Buffalo had just traded two of its top defensemen this past week (Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr) and was without its top offensive player in Thomas Vanek.