Penguins vs. Buffalo Recap: Crosby scores to end drought, helps Pens win in OT

The Pens win 5-4 in OT in a back-and-forth game against Buffalo. Sidney Crosby scores a goal and adds a game-winning assist in overtime.

Lineup

Same as recent practices, Brian Dumoulin is back with Kris Letang on the top pair, Jake Guentzel is back with Sidney Crosby on the top line and Carl Hagelin gets promoted back to the Malkin-Kessel line for some reason.

1st period

Pretty good start for the Penguins, but it’s the Sabres who strike first and just 3:45 into the game. After a nice shift for the Pens in the offensive zone, Ian Cole gets caught on a pinch and Justin Schultz is back on a 2v1 against the last 2 Buffalo players you’d want to see in that situation in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. Eichel makes a nice pass through Schultz, and Kane finishes a goal short-side on a quick shot on Matt Murray to make it 1-0 Buffalo.

Ian Cole levels Sam Reinhart with a clean big, open ice hit so naturally 2 guys try to fight him. OK.

On the ensuing power play, the Pens do typical stupid Pens things at their worst with a Letang ill-advised pass and a Malkin penalty. Buffalo gets a power play and Reinhart of all people (to add insult) gets to a bounce off the backboard before Olli Maatta can and scores on Murray to make it 2-0 BUF.

Pittsburgh at least gets a little momentum late when Robin Lehner leaves the net and misplays the puck and Patric Hornqvist shoots from behind the net and bounced a puck in off a defender. A little luck, but as the 15th shot of the period, the Pens deserved a little luck. 2-1 going into intermission.

2nd period

First shift of the period and defensive disaster strikes again. Behind the net Sidney Crosby passes the puck back for Bryan Rust? Letang? Who knows. Neither of them were expecting it, so neither take it but Eichel gladly receives the gift and quickly steps out and tucks the puck in by an unsuspecting Murray. 16 seconds in and it’s 3-1.

The Pens 3rd line strikes again, great pass out from Maatta all the way down the ice to the blueline for Hornqvist to make for a sudden 2on0 for Pittsburgh. Hornqvist gives a nice pass over for Conor Sheary who makes no mistakes beating Lehner 5-hole. 3-2 BUF early.

The Penguins get a 5-on-3 power play for 51 seconds but can’t score. Crosby gets a few looks from right in front but just can’t buy a goal right now....For now anyways..

Because Crosby does score later on the power play. Phil Kessel with a great look at the net, puck scoots free and with nothing but a yawning cage Crosby roofs home a goal to tie it at 3-3.

The Pens don’t get out of the period tied, though. Ryan Reaves takes an unnecessary offensive zone elbowing penalty and Benoit Pouliot scores to put the Sabres up again, this time 4-3 just before the end of the period.

3rd period

The game slows down for a bit, then the teams trade chances. Murray makes a big save on the Sabres first line, next shift Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel make some magic, Malkin puts a little extra sauce on a huge saucer pass that Kessel one-times (yep) into the net. 4-4.

Next shift, Letang makes a beauty of a slap-pass up to Guentzel who gets behind the defense and centers for Rust. Rust gets a good shot but somehow Lehner dives in desperation and appears to injure himself, though he would remain in the game. But man, after a terrible night for Lehner what a game-saving..save.

Overtime

OT ends just :16 seconds in, and marks the only time on the night Pittsburgh gets a lead. OT starts 87-43-58, Sid wins the draw, Letang works it in the zone, Crosby eludes Kane behind the net, centers it for Sheary who found space away from Eichel and scores the winner. 5-4 Pittsburgh.

Some Thoughts

  • The Pens were giving up a ton of 3on2’s and 2on1’s early. Another meh effort.
  • At the same time though, Pittsburgh was able to stretch Buffalo with several great, long breakouts. That part of the game was a lot prettier.
  • The 3rd goal against early in the 2nd period perfectly encapsulates why Crosby and Letang entered tonight tied for worst in the league in +/-. Low effort, slow urgency, just a lack of attention. Whether you like or dislike the plus/minus stat is irrelevant to show the poor defensive efforts. They’re clearly better players, they just have to..play better. Award winning analysis from your pals at Pensburgh. (And, to be fair, Letang finished a +1 on the night, Crosby even, so there).
  • Pittsburgh’ 3rd line of the night with Sheary-Sheahan-Hornqvist was feeling it early on. Interesting mix of players there and funny enough the best playmaking was done by Maatta to spring Sheary on his goal. They shows a lot of drive and chemistry and offensive-zone time with the puck, so hopefully they get another crack at it next game. Or maybe Sheary/Hornqvist get a promotion to play with Crosby, who knows. (and 43-87-72 was the line in the last minute of the 3rd).
  • Because Guentzel/Rust as Sid wingers tonight weren’t all that impressive and didn’t display too many reasons to stay there for the next game.
  • Pouliot for Buffalo hit Crosby with a high elbow in the head in the first, then put a slash on Malkin in the 2nd. Luckily didn’t seem to cause any harm to the Pens stars but enough to make one nervous more than once.
  • Mike Sullivan said earlier he was emphasizing all his defensemen to get shots towards the net tonight, and they definitely listened with 28 shot attempts counted with 5 minutes left. (Maybe we’ll update this if the recap doesn’t go down to the wire).
  • Would love to see a breakdown of total penalties called by period. Counting coincidentals tonight it went 5 in the first, 6 in the second, then 0 in the third. On one hand you have to like the refs not wanting to tip the balance of the game and all that. On the other hand it’s certainly nothing new or fun when it’s clear they’ve swallowed the whistles late.
  • I believe it was Steve Mears on the broadcast who mentioned that Buffalo took 3-0 leads the last two times in Pittsburgh, they won neither game. Add a 2-0 to it. And it never felt, from this perspective, like the Pens were out of it or in deep trouble, even when down.
  • And that’s a good win- got some nice play and production from the 3rd line, then Geno and Phil tied it up, then Crosby worked magic to win it. All’s well that ends well.

Not the prettiest or cleanest game, but the result of 2 points on the night and Crosby breaking his dry streak sure looks good at the end of the day. Pittsburgh moves on to go back to Ottawa to play the Sens on Thursday night for a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Final

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