It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh as the boys in black and gold rolled out the welcome mat for the Buffalo Sabres for the first Saturday night home game of the season. The Penguins, despite missing a few of their key players, were looking to continue to the streak they had established last year against Buffalo, when Pittsburgh took the series against the Sabres 4-0.
Despite some good chances early on by the Penguins, Buffalo would light the lamp first courtesy of a goal from Nathan Gerbe. After a review due to the fact that it appeared Pens defenceman Kris Letang knocked the net off the morning, it was determined Gerbe’s rebound had slid past Fleury before the net was moved. And, with just over ten minutes remaining in the period, the Sabres were up by 1. Gerbe’s goal was followed by Buffalo’s second of the night courtesy of Luke Adam. Adam and line mate Thomas Vanek were able to pick up a puck turned over by the Pens and earn themselves an 2-on-0 breakaway. Despite some quick saves courtesy of Sabres net-minder Jhonas Enroth on Chris Kunitz and Mark Letestu, the Pens would head to the dressing room after the first twenty down 2-0 and being outshot 11-9.
It would take Pittsburgh only two minutes and ten seconds to respond to the Sabres first two period goals in the second as James Neal would hammer one home from the near corner. That would be the only goal scored in the second twenty despite some good chances by both teams. Pens net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury would stand tall and face three straight shots courtesy of Paul Gaustad while Pittsburgh would find itself carrying the puck through a number of odd-man rushes without being able to capitalize. Heading into the bottom twenty, Buffalo held the slight advantage in shots, outshooting the Pens 12-9.
Despite some blocked shots and some excellent offensive work by the Pens, it would be Drew Stafford returning Buffalo’s two goal lead again almost halfway through the period with a shot from the top corner. However, Pittsburgh wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel and with 4:51 on the clock, Jordan Staal would send a backhander past Enroth, cutting the Sabres lead to within 1. With 1:29 remaining in the first, Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in favour of the extra man. Despite the man advantage and a 6-on-4 opportunity that presented itself was Buffalo’s Derek Roy was called for delay of game with just twenty-two seconds left on the clock, the Pens were unable to capitalize and were forced to settle for 3-2 loss to Buffalo, their first regulation loss of the season.
The Penguins continue to be without some of their key players including Evgeni Malkin who sat out again as a result of some soreness. With five goals, James Neal continues to lead the league in goals while Kris Letang still remains in the top five for assists. Marc-Andre Fleury sits fifth for most wins by a goalie. Pittsburgh now sits in second place in the East, despite having played more games than any other team thus far this season.
Paul Martin led all skaters in ice time with 26:12 followed by Kris Letang who banked 23:12. Chris Kunitz banked five shots on goal while James Neal averaged 4. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 of the 25 goals he faced while the Penguins fired 29 in the direction of Jhonas Enroth. There were only three penalties called in the came, one to Pittsburgh and two to Buffalo.
The Penguins will travel to Winnipeg where they will take on the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night. Puck drops at 8:30pm.