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Recap: Penguins hold on to down Buffalo 3-2

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The Pens jump out to a lead and hold onto it to run out the clock and beat the Sabres on Saturday afternoon

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins shuffle in Radim Zohorna to dress today on the fourth line with Sam Lafferty being the scratch. Otherwise all lines and pairs are the same as Thursday night.

First period

The Pens get the better of the action early and the game’s first power play, though they don’t do much with it. But 9:30 in, Pittsburgh gets on the board at even strength when Jared McCann banks a puck from behind the net, almost all the way in the corner and somehow it gets by Dustin Tokarski and into the net.

The Pens dominate the period, shots are 12-3. Evan Rodrigues has three of the shots and looks very assertive against his old team. Sidney Crosby hits a post, but despite all the pressure the Sabres hold the game at just a 1-0 hole.

Second period

The Sabres come out stronger to start the second, though that’s not saying much. But the Pens hold steady and Rodrigues breaks through with a goal. Dylan Cozens almost turns it over about three times and finally does to Teddy Blueger. Blueger feeds Rodrigues who quickly whips a hard shot past Tokarski.

Buffalo is able to respond less than a minute later. Tristan Jarry can’t clear the puck and Tage Thompson attempts a shot that takes a bite out of McCann, Thompson is able to get it back and fires it by Jarry to bring the Sabres up to 2-1.

The Sabres go back to the box, and Pittsburgh converts on their second power play of the game to make it a 3-1 score. Sidney Crosby skates down the left wing and throws the pass to Bryan Rust. Rust just needs to keep his stick on the ice and some downward pressure on it to have it redirect into the net, and he does for his 17th goal of the season.

Shots in the second period were 13-13 with the Pens able to extend their lead from one entering the period to two going out of it.

Third period

Mark Jankowski takes an unfortunate penalty when a Sabre makes sure the refs see a stick in the midsection and Casey Mittlestadt cashes in with a quick shot off a pass that Jarry can’t keep up with. 3-2 Buffalo with 8:22 left.

With 2:21 left an and o-zone draw the Sabres pull their goalie. The Pens keep them at bay, Buffalo gets a timeout with 17 seconds left for for a last push. It doesn’t work.

Some thoughts

  • As Pierre McGuire noted on the broadcast, the Pens sat back in the NZ with a 1-2-2 system that just choked the life out of Buffalo’s breakouts. The Sabres just aren’t skilled enough to attack with that many bodies hanging back just waiting for them, and it worked all game to limit the number of shots and chances Buffalo could generate, and resulted in several icings as well as they couldn’t even get the red line.
  • Mentioned a bit above, but it’s great to watch players like Rodrigues, McCann and Mike Matheson just dripping with confidence right now. They’re just playing like they’re good, they know they’re good and they know they can make plays and get pucks to the net against this competition. Those three combined for 17 of the Pens total 41 shots on goal today.
  • Jarry up to 1 regulation loss in his last 14 decisions. He’s found a groove to provide very steady play as of late.
  • The Pens are on a 13-0-2 streak now against Buffalo in the last 15 games between the two. Good team beats a bad one, news at 11.
  • Have to give a hat tip for Dustin Tokarski. The Pens bombarded him and he found a way to keep it close until the very end. 38 saves on 41 shots was a great effort for a goalie who hasn’t been in the NHL too often lately.
  • Pittsburgh couldn’t pull away because of Tokarski and the refs’ reluctance to call a lot of power plays today, but they still held on and got the two points. Style points don’t count in the standings.

But what will count is getting the W. Pens move to 5-0-0 vs Buffalo this season, which is all you can do. The sixth game between the two is tomorrow, again at 3PM.