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RECAP: Pittsburgh pushes win streak for 4 with an easy 5-2 win over Buffalo

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The Pens spread out the offense among their lines, and skate to a relatively low-drama 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame

John Marino misses his first game of the season, which gets Chad Ruhwedel back into the lineup for the first time in almost a month. Otherwise, the Penguins are the same as they have been recently.

First period

Pittsburgh gets an early power play but does little with it, however they still score first at 6:27 into the first period. Kasperi Kapanen is aggressive on the forecheck and picks a pass off from Casey Mittlestadt who for some reason is attempting a short pass. Kapanen is on a clear breakaway but he makes a no-look drop pass for Evgeni Malkin who gets gifted an easy finish for his seventh goal of the season. 1-0 Pens.

Just 27 seconds later the Sabres get that goal back. Tage Thompson comes away with the puck off a board battle from Sidney Crosby (!?!?!?) and Brian Dumoulin leaves the front of the net. The 6’7 Thompson is able to get a quick wrap-around that somehow gets under the stick of Tristan Jarry and his pads too. Weird play all around. Meh. 1-1.

Mike Matheson takes a tripping penalty but the Pens PK does their jobs.

Shots end up 9-6 Pens in the first period. Buffalo hanging around, but overall the Pens look relaxed and in control everywhere but the scoreboard.

Second period

Early in the second, it’s Brandon Tanev staying hot with his sixth goal of the season coming off the rush, using his speed and dekeing to the backhand that goalie Jonas Johansson is, well, not really sure what he’s doing there. 2-1 Pens just 3:24 into the second.

Those pesky Sabres aren’t ready to go away just yet, though. Riley Sheahan skates in towards the corner, Pittsburgh has defensive numbers back but no one intercepts the centering pass to Victor Olofsson, who has enough space to get the shot away. A bit lackadaisical as a routine looking play escalates quickly into a tie 2-2 game.

The Pens stick with it, Buffalo takes their second penalty of the game and the Pittsburgh passing play err, power play scores. Sidney Crosby hits Jake Guentzel with a pass, and with great patience and precision Guentzel rips a far-side shot with the goalie’s leg folding up on him after he had to push off on it to get to the near post. 3-2 Pens.

Collin Miller hits the post two times in the same shift...If the Sabres didn’t have bad luck they would have no luck at all. Maybe this in fact is no luck at all, who knows. Either way, it’s a bad thing.

Shots in the second are 13-9 in favor of Pittsburgh, 22-15 Pens overall in the game.

Third period

Zach Aston-Reese buries Dylan Cozens into the boards and then fights Miller as a result. No further penalties but Cozens looks a lot worse for wear as he uneasily makes his way off the ice with assistance.

A bit later, Anthony Angello strikes on the rush, gloving down a wayward puck and then ripping a pretty looking shot in to extend the lead to 4-2.

Marcus Pettersson takes a hooking penalty to give the Sabres a second power play but the Pens again survive it.

Buffalo pulls the goalie with 2:25 left. Jarry takes a shot at the empty net but it goes wide. Bryan Rust turns on the jets to beat out the icing and slams in a goal for added measure. 5-2.

Shots in the third were 8-5 Buffalo as a bit of score effects kicks in.

Some thoughts

  • Four game point streak for Tanev now, always good when the lower lines can heat up and pitch in some offense.
  • Speaking of that, the fourth line with a rare goal. Great for Angello to get his second career goal and first of the season against his home-area team as the Albany native gets on the board against his childhood favorite team. Angello hit the post in the first period, the fourth line was getting some positive momentum, it did feel like only a matter of time before they broke through, and they did.
  • And make it six games with points in a row for Malkin too. The Kapanen-Malkin connection is worth the price of admission, if you know, you could pay money to go to games and all. But at times it feels like they’re just showing off with their skill and what they can do. Lots of fun to watch.
  • With Marino out tonight, no Pens’ defender has played all the games this season. Marino was “maintenance” yesterday, which usually means healthy enough to play the next game. And he took the morning skate. Did he tweak or re-aggravate something there? Did the Pens know he’s like 85-90% healthy (probably good enough to play if this was a playoff game) but figure why not let him rest against a weak opponent? A somewhat healthy-ish scratch, if you will? Probably not a bad idea to give Marino a reset, and he’s probably less than 100% healthy, so make of that what you will.
  • This is only the second win of the season where the Penguins didn’t have to come from behind. But, even then it was a 1-1 game against the worst team they’ll play all season, so that’s pretty close even. At least they had breathing room for the third period and didn’t have too much stress down the stretch.
  • Buffalo did hit 4 posts. None were goals. Maybe the story of the season for them, just can’t find a way to have anything come together for them.
  • I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but it’s noteworthy the Pens’ first line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rust with Dumouin-Letang were on ice for both Buffalo goals against..And the forwards were on for none of the 5v5 goals for (even the EN was a 5v6). Both were kind of odd plays and breakdowns, not the end of the world.
  • And on the other hand, the Pens score 5 goals with nothing from the Crosby line at even, besides the EN. That’s a great sign of spreading out the offense (all the other forward lines scored a goal each, one more from the power play). First 10-15ish games of this season, if the Crosby line wasn’t producing, there wasn’t much of a chance Pittsburgh would win.

The Pens needed a win in this one, with most of the “good” teams in the division (Boston, NYI and Washington) all looking like they’re on their way to wins. And Philly is losing in regulation to the Caps starts to put their feet to the fire a little bit. The Pens needed two points on this night and this situation to keep pace, and two points they get out of it.

Rematch with Buffalo coming up on Saturday night for the Pens as they’ll look to keep building on what now is a four game winning streak.