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Penguins/Sabres Recap: Pens’ power play heats up in fourth straight win

Pittsburgh utilizes two power play goals, including Jeff Carter’s OT winner, to beat the Buffalo Sabres by a 4-3 score.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images


Josh Archibald is back from his maintenance day yesterday and the Penguins are able to use the same groupings they’ve been going with recently.

First period

As usual for Pittsburgh these days, it’s a slow start. That might be under-selling it. Tristan Jarry is great in net, turning away several great chances from Buffalo as the Pens just amble along.

The game gets a little juice with 3:40 left when Tyson Jost takes a penalty, the Pittsburgh power play gets it going but doesn’t score.

Shots in the first are 13-6 Buffalo. 5v5 scoring chances are 10-2 BUF, which reflects how the opening 20 went. Not great for the Penguins, but they escape with no score on the board, at least.

Second period

The second starts like more of the same with the Sabres owning the puck. Jarry stands strong but looks worse for wear taking shots up high and losing his stick multiple times. In a rare counter-attack, Brock McGinn is pulled down and Pittsburgh gets the second power play of the night.

The Pens get it going again, but after Jason Zucker can’t score in deep, he follows up the play and ties up the stick of a Buffalo player and takes a penalty of his own. Tage Thompson fires a slapper from distance that the TV broadcast says is 98 mph but it hits the post and that’s as close as they come to scoring.

Rickard Rakell gets dumped into the boards away from the puck, a bit of a generous call but the Pens make them pay. Jake Guentzel goes skate to stick with a pass and fires on net and it eludes Craig Anderson and the Pens take a 1-0 lead with just 4:24 left in the second.

Pittsburgh keeps it going, and somehow Danton Heinen misses a wide open net and that comes back to haunt them. The sequence goes the other way and Jost passes for Victor Olofsson to make a deke to his forehand and fire the puck in and tie the game at 1-1.

Buffalo feeds off that energy and isolates the Pens on a line change to generate an odd-man rush. Thompson wires a great pass to Jeff Skinner who pushes over to his forehand for the easy tuck. 2-1 Buffalo just like that with two goals in 1:07.

Shots in the second are 11-8 Buffalo. The Pens in the last two minutes were fading fast.

Third period

Just 12 seconds in, Guentzel is high-sticked and the Penguins get another power play. It doesn’t score, but soon after Pittsburgh ties the game anyways. An absolutely unreal stop by Sidney Crosby to sprawl out and keep the puck in the zone and then sauce a cross-ice backhand pass. Those words strung together, just amazing. It leads to Heinen rocking a shot on net. Anderson kicks the rebound right to Rakell, who smoothly lifts it into the net. 2-2 game.

P.O. Joseph trips up a player and Buffalo gets only their second power play of the game. Pittsburgh kills it. Then Crosby sticks a leg out and trips up Thompson and Buffalo gets another power play mid-way through the third. They kill it again.

With 3:30 left, Brock McGinn steps up again. McGinn rushes the puck up the ice, gets fed a pass by Kasperi Kapanen from near the wall and blasts away. Not a great moment for Anderson on that angle, but the Pens will take it. 3-2.

Thompson draws yet another third period power play, and it’s Malkin going off for hooking with 3:02 left. Buffalo takes their timeout to get on the same page. The Pens keep them at bay for 90 seconds, but the Sabres pull their goalie and the extra attacker is Kyle Okposo and he walks right to the middle of the ice and blasts in the game-tying goal.

With 20 seconds left, Buffalo gets upset about Rakell and Guentzel poking at Anderson when he had the puck covered. Jeff Skinner loses complete control and high-sticks Guentzel in the face. Ugly stuff. He’s assessed a 5-minute major.

The Pens can’t score in the last few seconds so it goes to OT with a lot of carryover power play time.


The Pens finish it off. With Guentzel in the box, Jeff Carter gets on the ice in OT once Crosby changes, and right in front of the net Carter collects a pass with a nifty shuffling of his feet and puts it past fellow old man Anderson to end this one. 4-3 Pittsburgh win.

Some thoughts

  • Buffalo was going to work with their speed and getting pucks and deep and then just getting after it. Twice the Brian Dumoulin - Jan Rutta pair were trapped on the ice for 2+ minutes, which might not be all their fault but it was standing out for the same guys getting the bad end of things.
  • Four straight games with a power play goal! A season-high for Pittsburgh.
  • Malkin’s been a huge part of the power play turnaround. Nine shot attempts tonight, six SOG, a lot of that with the man advantage. And 2 PPA in this game.
  • The Pens went 3/3 on the PK before giving one up in a 6v4 situation, feels a bit unfair but so it goes. That group was good, despite giving up the late goal while two players down.
  • As written in the game preview this morning, Buffalo is a team that thrives on the rush, and both of their goals in this game originated in that fashion. At times it looked like the Pens were trying to break in a wild horse and just hanging on for dear life.
  • Thompson got an assist on a nice pass, and looking back, it now looks like a minor miracle he didn’t score a goal. 3 SOG, nine total attempts, one very emphatic post shot. This is a guy who is feeling it right now.
  • Skinner should be hearing from the NHL. Who knows if they go fine or suspension, but you can’t take your stick and smash it into a dude’s grill when you get mad in this day and age. That would be a big loss for tomorrow if the league sits Skinner, he scored a goal tonight and not only has a six-game point streak, but 11 points in that stretch.
  • It’s fitting that bad decision and stupid action by Skinner cost his team the game too. It was totally needless. Fortunately the Pens made him pay and got out of there with the win.
  • The Sabres are the NHL’s youngest team on average and their legs were really going in this one. These same two teams meet again tomorrow, and the Pens won’t have Jarry to bail them out early. It’s going to be a big challenge.