Patrick Lalime -- backup. Ryan Miller -- Vezina candidate. Or is it the other way around? You'd have to forgive Penguins fans for asking. Lalime has started only five games all season long but he's been great against Pittsburgh. Coming in on relief for Miller, Lalime stopped all 27 shots he saw to open the door for Drew Stafford and the rest of the Sabres to climb back in (more later). Dating back to two weeks ago Lalime's stopped 50 of 51 shots off Pittsburgh sticks. Miller now has a GAA of above 5.00 in his last six games against the Pens. Again, one of these guys is a Vezina candidate and one an aging veteran backup. You'd just never know who was who based off of their games against the Pens.
The game started off all aces for Pittsburgh. Tyler Kennedy got his own chipped puck back and shot the puck. Miller couldn't control the rebound and Jordan Staal put the rebound home for the 1-0 lead. Late in the first Bill Guerin whipped a puck from a stationary position along the walls for a 2-0 edge. 1:28 into the second period, Chris Kunitz hammered a shot (in front from a nifty Pascal Dupuis jumping screen) and that was the evening for Miller. Who they say is a Vezina candidate.
The game turned halfway through the second when Jay McKee jumped on a puck in the crease. The refs awarded a penalty shot after a lengthy video review (to see if the puck was in the net under McKee). FSN broadcaster Paul Steigerwald called it perfectly: Marc-Andre Fleury looked like an NFL kicker who was iced by a timeout, as Drew Stafford snapped a shot five hole by him. Stafford struck again two minutes later collecting his own rebound and cooly waiting to get it to his forehand to narrow the lead to 3-2. In the third Stafford walked around Alex Goligoski and sent a pass to Paul Gaustad (who Matt Cooke couldn't neutralize) for the tying goal. Momentum had totally shifted and Jason Pominville scored the game-winner on the power-play.
- Credit Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff for tapping Stafford for the penalty shot. He could have gone with more of a goal scorer like Thomas Vanek and Stafford was in quite the slump. But Ruff knew what button to push and it ended up being a tremendous call.
- Patrick Lalime was the story of the night with an awesome effort coming in a relief role. It was an unbelievably great showing.
- Tyler Kennedy, fresh off his healthy scratch last game, arguably showed the most jump of any Penguin. The message he was sent clearly was received. Ruslan Fedotenko, who's been mired in a slump of his own was the scratch tonight; let's see if he bounces back similiarly.
- Eric Godard managed to take two minor penalties in his first four shifts and skated a total of 4:32 on the night. Remind me what his point is again?
- Sidney Crosby had quite the battle with Gaustad (the NHL's leader in faceoffs) in the circle all night long. Crosby ended up at 59% (13 of 22) but that came down over the course of the game.
- Fleury had quite the adventure. The Sabres only put 4 shots on him the whole first period. Then things turned and his defense left him out to dry quite a bit; aside from the goals like when Brooks Orpik planted a defender right on top of him. Not a fine evening for him or the whole defensive corps.
- The game winning goal was scored on a somewhat questionable boarding call on Craig Adams. The refs only whistled 4 penalties throughout two and a half periods, setting a fairly lax standard. To nail Adams on that call was a bit of a difference from the bar they had set.
The swing of momentum in the game makes this perhaps the toughest loss of the season. For the first 30 minutes Pittsburgh did everything right: they limited chances against and chased one of the best goalies in the league. Then it went south and went south quickly over the last 30 minutes.
And just like that a one game losing streak becomes two, and they've lost 3 of 4. The first game in this stretch was a 4-0 shutout at the hands of the New Jersey Devils; tomorrow night's opponent. It'll be interesting to see how Pittsburgh bounces back. Surely it must have stung but let's see if they can parlay it into a good effort tomorrow in Jersey.