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Game Recap: Welcome to the Anders Nilsson Show

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Pens pepper Nilsson with 50 shots, settle for a point in Buffalo after Crosby scores his 12th goal of the season.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

After a thrilling overtime victory on Friday night, the Penguins headed west to play the back half of a back-to-back set against New York opponents. Tonight’s matchup was against the Buffalo Sabres led by former Pens’ head coach Dan Bylsma. Marc-Andre Fleury got the start in goal for the Pens. He was opposed by Anders Nilsson in net for the Sabres.

1st Period

Nothing too exciting to write home about in the early going. Trevor Daley was whistled for a hooking penalty that looked more like holding the stick than a hook. The Penguins easily killed off the Sabres’ man advantage and Daley was released.

The Sabres drew first blood 8:16 into the first period on a deflection goal by William Carrier to make it 1-0. The goal was Carrier’s first career NHL goal.

Kris Letang was the victim of a high stick and the Pens went to the powerplay looking to even the score. Plenty of chances for both powerplay units but Nilsson turned every one away to preserve the 1-0 Sabres lead.

As the period wound down the Pens kept coming still in search of a tying goal before the horn sounded. Luckily, for the Sabres the clock ran out and they escaped the opening frame with a 1-0 lead.

Pens outshot the Sabres 18-6 in the first 20 minutes.

2nd Period

Just 16 seconds into the second period Brian Dumoulin was sent to the box for holding the stick of Kyle Okposo. No damage came of the penalty as the Pens killed it off with little threat from the Sabres’ powerplay.

Buffalo would get another shot to extend their lead on the powerplay after Conor Sheary was called for tripping just before the midway mark of the period. Once again the Pens’ penalty kill was up to the task, killing off the Sheary minor and keeping the deficit at only 1-0.

After Sheary was released from the box the Sabres mounted some extended pressure but Marc-Andre Fleury kept the door closed.

With the clock ticking towards the five minute mark, the Penguins put on one of the most dominant shifts of the season. Led by Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, the Pens controlled the puck in the Sabres’ zone for over two minutes as a tired Sabres team struggled to control the puck.

Unfortunately, the Pens could not take advantage of the exhausted Sabres defenders and the score remained 1-0 in favor of the home side.

Under a minute to play in the period and Brian Dumoulin booked a second trip to the penalty box. The puck went behind the Pens net and Dumoulin cross checked Marcus Foligno between the numbers, sending him head first into the boards. Luckily, the refs only handed Dumo a 2 minute minor instead of a 5 minute major. Foligno remained in the ice momentarily but went off under his own power.

Buffalo had about 30 second of powerplay time to work with before intermission but nothing came of it as the horn sounded to end the second period with the Sabres still in front 1-0.

3rd Period

Down a goal heading into the final period, the Pens took care of the first order of business and killed off the remaining time on the Dumolin minor and got to work on finding an equalizer.

The first great chance of the period was from the stick of Evander came as he came streaking down the left hand side only to be denied by a great glove save by Fleury.

Cody Franson interfered with Scott Wilson and the Pens went to the powerplay looking for an equalizer.

On almost a carbon copy of his goal last night against the Islanders, Sidney Crosby scooped up a loose puck to the right of the goal and slotted it past Nilsson to even the score at 1-1.

The goal was Crosby’s 12th in 12 games as he continues his torrid pace. Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin were credited with the assists on the tying goal.

With momentum on their side the Pens continued their offensive onslaught in search of a go ahead goal.

Evgeni Malkin almost added to his assist with a spectacular solo effort only to be denied by the blocker of Nilsson.

Tensions began to flare between the sides as the Sabres were still heated over the Dumolin hit on Foligno. A post whistle scrum resulted in two skaters a side being sent to the penalty box.

Neither side could find a tie breaking goal the rest of the way and the horn sounded signaling the second overtime game for the Pens in as many nights.

Overtime

There is never a lack of action with 3-on-3 hockey and that held true tonight.

Sidney Crosby sprung Kris Letang on a breakaway for the Pens best opportunity of the extra period by Nilsson was there to shut it down.

Letang wanted a penalty called but you’re never going to get a call in that situation.

After the Letang chance it was all Buffalo the rest of the way and Fleury was there every step of the way. Chance after chance fell onto the stick of a Sabres’ attacker and each time Fleury answered the call.

Neither side could solve the opposing goalie and the overtime period wrapped up with the game still knotted at 1-1, leaving it to a shootout to decide a winner.

Shootout

Kyle Okposo— SAVE (Fleury)

Sidney Crosby— SAVE (Nilsson)

Sam Reinhart— SAVE (Fleury)

Evgeni Malkin— SAVE (Nilsson)

Cal O’Reilly— GOAL (wrist shot)

Kris Letang— SAVE (Nilsson)

Sabres win shootout 1-0

FINAL

Buffalo Sabres 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

GOALS: Buffalo, William Carrier (1). Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby (12).

RECORDS: Buffalo Sabres, 6-8-4 16 points. Pittsburgh Penguins, 11-4-3 25 points.

Thoughts on game

  • Anders Nilsson was the clear star on the night. Nilsson stopped 49 of 50 shots and denied all three attempts in the shootout. He’s listed as the Sabres’ backup but played like a number one goalie tonight.
  • Not to be brushed aside, Marc-Andre Fleury was also very good on the night. He wasn’t as heavily tested as Nilsson but made some clutch saves to keep the score at 1-0 and was absolutely ridiculous in overtime.
  • Brian Dumoulin was incredibly lucky to play the final period of this game. Officials easily could have given him the gate after his hit on Foligno. Will be interesting to see if he gets a call from DoPS.
  • What else is there to say about Sidney Crosby that hasn’t been said? He has 12 goals in 12 games and is now tied with Patrik Laine for the goal scoring lead.
  • Crosby’s tying goal would not have been possible without the incredible set up by Chris Kuntiz who slid it over to 87. Kunitz has taken a lot of heat the last 2 or 3 season but he continues to produce.
  • Buffalo has four power play opportunities but were unable to cash in on any of them. The Pens penalty kill continues their strong play and helped keep the Pens in reach, as three Sabres’ chances came with the score 1-0.
  • After the way the road trip began, taking 3 out of a possible 6 points feels like a win.

Three Stars

  1. Anders Nilsson
  2. Sidney Crosby
  3. Marc-Andre Fleury

Pens are back at it on Monday night, welcoming the New York Rangers to the PPG Paints Arena for the first meeting between the two sides since the Pens eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs last season.