First game back and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres engaged in a potentially important game in terms of possible playoff seeds. Pittsburgh jumped out to the early lead and never looked back, earning two points in the process.
Sergei Gonchar scored the game's first goal on the power play in the first period for Pittsburgh, teeing up a shot from the middle of the blueline that beat Patrick Lalime. The Pens would extend the lead to 2-0 when Pascal Dupuis sent a great cross-ice pass to Ruslan Fedotenko for a nice finish. Buffalo would hang around when Toni Lydman ripped a slapper past a screened Brent Johnson.
In the third period, Tyler Kennedy fed Fedotenko who took a quick shot that beat Lalime. Derek Roy would narrow the margin again to one with a sneaky top shelf goal that the refs didn't quite see at first, but that would be as close as it would get.
- First game back after the break, it was a maintenance game for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (who both recorded assists on separate goals). Crosby played 17:34 and Malkin played 17:48, significantly under their season averages, but on the first night back that's to be expected. As much hockey as they've played lately -- especially Sid -- the Pens are going to have to ease up a little so they keep the batteries charged down the line.
- Malkin's now up to a 14 game point streak, a season high amongst all NHL players. Quietly his production has been getting back on track, and if the Pens do add a guy like Alexei Ponikarovsky, that could only be better.....Stay tuned....
- In his first game as a Penguin, Jordan Leopold didn't look terribly out of place: 1 takeaway and 4 blocked shots in 18:12 of work. Leopold was a -1 and did look a little out of place at times, but that's naturally to be expected for a first game in a new system with all new teammates.
- It was a new beginning for Maxime Talbot too. Talbot missed 10 of the last 11 games with a groin injury, and has been plagued all season with injuries. Though he only skated 12:56 and was a -1, Superstar was credited with 5 hits, a takeaway and drew a penalty. More importantly, he skated hard and with a purpose, looking more like himself than in recent memory.
- Mike Rupp, who always has a high hit per ice-time ratio, rocked 4 Sabres in 7:54 and also convincingly dropped Paul Gaustad. Really looked like the big guy was just itching to get back in the action.
- Brent Johnson got the nod in net, and as usual, he looked steady. Wasn't much he could do on either goal against and Johnny was consistent in making the stops when he could. A typically strong performance for the vet.
Tomorrow's 3 PM trade deadline is hanging over us all, and reports the Penguins have struck a deal to acquire Alexei Ponikarovsky broke during the course of the game. Conceivably, this is all that Pittsburgh will do from here on out, but never say never when Ray Shero is wheeling and dealing. Keep it tuned to Pensburgh for all the latest.