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Buffalo at Pittsburgh

Neal's, Michalek's first goals for Pens lead to victory

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

PITTSBURGH -- After playing four consecutive overtime games and seeing eight of their previous nine decided by one goal, the Pittsburgh Penguins found an opponent they've made a habit of defeating a little bit more easily.

James Neal and Zbynek Michalek each scored for the first time as members of the Penguins with goals 3:17 apart early in the second period and Pittsburgh continued its recent mastery of the Buffalo Sabres with a 3-1 victory Tuesday.

Pittsburgh swept the season series with the Sabres in winning their sixth consecutive game against them. The Penguins also won in regulation for the first time since Feb. 4 against -- you guessed it -- the Sabres.

Eastern Conference
SeedTeamGPPTSROW
1z-Pittsburgh487233
2y-Montreal486326
3y-Washington485724
4x-Boston486224
5x-Toronto485726
6x-N.Y. Rangers485622
7x-Ottawa485621
8x-N.Y. Islanders485520
Eliminated
9o-Winnipeg485122
10o-Philadelphia484922
11o-New Jersey484817
12o-Buffalo484814
13o-Carolina484218
14o-Tampa Bay484017
15o-Florida483612
Complete Playoff Race >>

"We were all very, very happy to get that third goal," Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanan said. "We could finally somewhat take kind of a deep breath and relax a little bit."

Mark Letestu scored that insurance goal with 5:54 to play as the Penguins came back from a first-period deficit and took the lead for good during the second for the second time in a little more than a month against the Sabres.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to improve to 4-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average against Buffalo this season.

"He's made big saves when he has needed to make them," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Even last game when we got up, he shut it down. He's quietly put together -- I don't even think quietly -- a nice season."

Rob Niedermayer scored for the second straight game for Buffalo, which lost in regulation for the first time in eight games since Terry Pegula became the team's owner.

The Penguins remained two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers in the race for the Eastern Conference's best record.

Neal's goal was his first in seven games since being acquired from Dallas, and Michalek scored for the first time in 59 games this season. Each also had an assist.

"Both of those guys were pretty relieved and had pretty big smiles on their faces," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Eighty-five seconds into the second period, Neal scored for only the second time in 18 games dating to his time with Dallas. Neal redirected a pass from Deryk Engelland while standing just to the left side of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, the puck deflecting off of Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold and into the far side of the net for Neal's 22nd of the season.

"Those are the kind of goals that can get you out of a slump," Neal said. "It was a little bit luck, but it was nice to see it finally go into the net."

Michalek's goal came on a slap shot from the right point that found its way through traffic, appeared to deflect off a Buffalo player and ended up beating Miller high to the glove side.

"I didn't even see the puck go in with so many people in front of me," Michalek said. "When the crowd reacted, I wasn't even sure if it was mine or not. Then, I saw everybody skating toward me and figured it was.

"It's just a big relief. I'm so happy to finally get the first one."

It was Michalek's first goal since Jan. 14, 2010 -- a span of 92 games -- and at first it appeared as if he added another late when he took a wrist shot from above the right circle. But Letestu was able to get a piece of the shot with his stick, getting it past Miller. It was Letestu's 12th of the season.

The Sabres fell to 3-1-1 during their franchise record-tying seven-game roadtrip and lost on the road in regulation for the first time since the Feb. 4 game in Pittsburgh.

Buffalo remained a point ahead of idle Carolina in the race for the final playoff spot.

"Every team is desperate for wins right now and we know we're going to be in a battle every game down the stretch," Niedermayer said.

After going 67 games between goals, Niedermayer scored for the second consecutive game only 2:47 into the contest, taking it to the net after beating Paul Martin down the right wing and depositing a shot between the legs of Fleury.

Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek was scratched due to the flu, and Buffalo also was without injured forwards Mike Grier and Jochen Hecht.

The Penguins welcomed back winger Chris Kunitz after he had missed the previous 13 games with an unspecified injury.

Notes

  • Pittsburgh went 0 for 6 on the power play.
  • The Sabres entered a game while holding down a playoff spot for the first time since the first week of the season but fell to 17-8-4 since Jan. 1.
  • Pittsburgh had played four consecutive overtime games heading into the contest and would have tied a franchise record had this game gone past regulation.
  • The game was the Penguins' 199th consecutive home sellout.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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James Neal (18) does not celebrate his goal this time, but is happy for Zbynek Michalek, who nets his first tally. (Getty Images)
James Neal (18) does not celebrate his goal this time, but is happy for Zbynek Michalek, who nets his first tally. (Getty Images)
Scoreboard
Buffalo (31-26-8)1001
Pittsburgh  (39-21-8) «0213
Three Stars
Z. Michalek
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
J. Neal
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
M. Fleury
PIT


Saves: 29
Save Pct.: .967
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
02:47 - Rob Niedermayer (2), Wrist Shot. Assist: Myers
2ND PERIOD
01:25 - James Neal (22), Slap Shot. Assist: Engelland, Staal
04:42 - Zbynek Michalek (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Neal, Letestu
3RD PERIOD
13:06 - Mark Letestu (12), Slap Shot. Assist: Michalek
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
07:17Engelland, 2 min, High-Sticking
08:47Ennis, 2 min, Bench - Too Many Men on the Ice
09:23Montador, 2 min, Boarding
15:00Adam, 2 min, Elbowing
2ND PERIOD
05:54McCormick, 2 min, Tripping
10:13Kunitz, 2 min, Goaltender Interference
14:20Mancari, 2 min, Roughing
14:20Gaustad, 2 min, Roughing
14:20Lovejoy, 2 min, Roughing
17:47Kennedy, 2 min, Bench - Too Many Men on the Ice
3RD PERIOD
05:24Gaustad, 2 min, High-Sticking
07:27Butler, 2 min, Cross-Checking
Shots On Goal
 123T
BUF157830
PIT1281131
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Ryan Miller58:33283
Marc-Andre Fleury59:52291
Game Information
Attendance - 18314
Referees - Chris Rooney, Steve Kozari
Linesmen - Scott Cherrey, Tim Nowak
 
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