Erik Gudbranson is in for his Penguins debut, in for the injured Chad Ruhwedel. Recently recalled Teddy Blueger is back too, for the injured Bryan Rust.
It’s the Sabres who strike first. Marcus Pettersson gets caught out on way too long a shift, his partner changes but he can’t. After getting worn down he makes a weak attempt up the middle that Sam Reinhart picks off and bumps to a wide open Jack Eichel. Not what you want, Eichel has plenty of space to unleash his heavy shot. 1-0 Buffalo.
CAPTAIN JACK SCORES FIRST! pic.twitter.com/Oqa8brWIow— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 2, 2019
But the Pens get it back quickly, Nick Bjugstad spins away from Johan Larsson who somehow trips and he has plenty of space of his own to rip his shot high and in the net. 1-1.
These guys from Florida are pretty good, eh? pic.twitter.com/IYbBrIjzi8— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 2, 2019
Garrett Wilson makes a pretty routine looking hit in the middle of the ice, and get’s Tim Peel’d for a roughing call. It doesn’t take Buffalo long to take advantage with Kyle Okposo feeding a pass right through Jack Johnson’s stick and legs for Conor Sheary to sit in open space thanks to Zach Trotman faceplanting or something and having space to snap a goal. Gotta love AHL level defensemen! 2-1 Buffalo
Montour ➡️ Okposo ➡️ Sheary ➡️ GOAL! pic.twitter.com/4r2sTFPXCS— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 2, 2019
The Pens pour on some shots but can’t get any more by Linus Ullmark this period who stops 19 of 20 in the first frame.
With less than a second, Zach Aston-Reese gets trifled with and sends Pittsburgh to their first power play of the game.
Breakouts and zone entries without Kris Letang remain a huge problem as Justin Schultz, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin aren’t on the same page at all about how and when to time their drop passes through the zone. Pittsburgh barely is able to get setup and doesn’t come close to scoring on their early power play.
The Pens keep chugging, keep throwing a lot of shots but Ullmark holds tight until former Penguin Scott Wilson takes a crucial double-minor penalty for high-sticking Petterson.
Finally the power play, and Patric Hornqvist, break through. Schultz takes a shot that Hornqvist deflects to tie the game at 2 and finally Ullmark’s force field has been cracked.
On the second part of the penalty, Malkin fires a cross-ice pass to Sidney Crosby who lets the momentum take him to a seat as he fires a quick shot that beats Ullmark sliding over to give Pittsburgh their first lead of the game at 3-2.
It doesn’t matter whether he’s standing or sitting, Sidney Crosby is always a legend. pic.twitter.com/uzq9dWvy2p— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 2, 2019
Big turning point for the game.
Shots on goal are 33-16 Pens total through two periods.
The Pens go to the PK, Pettersson atones for his mistake in the first by saving a goal at the line by blocking a puck that was heading in. Great scramble play defense and a couple nice saves by Murray to keep the puck out.
Marcus PetterssOMG.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 2, 2019
We’re having déjà vu! pic.twitter.com/Kt0YD2kxTP
But they can’t keep it out forever, with 2:32 left in regulation after a shift that featured Pettersson having to skate all around creation because Gudbranson was just posted up in front of the net, Brandon Montour scores from a point shot that deflected off a body in front. 3-3 late.
In the final seconds, Pittsburgh ices the puck, loses a draw and Rasmus Dahlin has the puck on his stick and a shooting lane open. He launches a slapper but Murray saves it to secure overtime and one point in the standings.
Crosby wins the faceoff, Pens dominate possession early, get a couple looks at the net, a change and isolate on tired Buffalo players but can’t score.
The next play Jared McCann wins a faceoff back but into open space Buffalo turns it into a 2-on-1. A shot is chipped at Murray but he’s in great position sliding over to make the stop.
The game continues. Johnson ices the puck after Eichel sneaks around the net for a wraparound chance that Murray can answer.
The Pens get a glorious chance when Malkin steals the puck from Rasmus Ristolainen, feeds Pettersson who tries to pass it to Kessel for a tap-in but Ullmark stops the puck. Malkin gets another look at the net but hits the post.
Rasmus Dahlin brings the puck over the line and, ehhh, kinda looks off-side but they let it go and Sheary eventually puts in his second goal of the game against his old team to win if for Buffalo.
- Nice play by Dominik Simon to support on the first goal by Bjugstad. It was a subtle keep in, just extend the play and give it a chance to move on, Simon’s game is quiet like that.
- For all the criticism, Gudbranson was OK. Didn’t really like that all he was willing to do was partner passes all night long, but hey it’s game one and he’s getting acclimated. He was literally just standing in front of the net and not really helping Pettersson out hardly at all in the sequence leading up to the tying goal.
- Weird how Dahlin was ruled on-side for the GWG when he deked the puck pretty loosely into the zone, was clearly swooping in before it, the Pens’ defenseman was in between him and the puck but he was still officially “in control” of it? Ok.
- In the end, a shoddy defense bites the Pens. Giving up 20 shots in periods two and three after a great seven shot against effort in period one. And the shots they were allowing were quality ones. Can’t really count on this current personnel group to do a lot more.
- Second time three games to blow a late lead within 4 minutes left in the game. Again, poor defense and just giving up too many opportunities to let bad things happen. Frustrating, but to be expected considering the names in the lineup.
- Good night for Sid and Geno. Almost looked like Mike Johnston days they were playing behind their own goal line a ton, clearly making efforts to play 200-foot games to help out a defense where you have Justin Schultz who can make a good forward pass and pretty much no one else. Need the centers to help out here and they did for sure.
- Nice to see Hornqvist break his goal drought. He had a couple assists in the past few games since getting moved up to the Crosby line and has been digging all around the ice, you had to know it was coming.
- Hopefully next for Phil Kessel with a team-high 7 shots in the game. Liked seeing him look more comfortable and less “immediate look for a pass” every time he had the puck in the o-zone. He even curled from the left to the middle and put a good shot on goal. The red light will happen soon if he keeps it up.
Another blown lead and point left on the table for the Pens, and it’s a tough day on the out of town scoreboard with Montreal, Carolina and Washington all winning their games. Pittsburgh is back at it tomorrow against those Canadiens and they really need a good result. But with the caliber of defensemen, it’s likely to be another uphill battle.