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Penguins/Sabres Recap: If it could have gone wrong it did in Pittsburgh’s 3-1 loss to Buffalo

Questionable ref decisions, tough bounces, goals reversed, hot opposing goalie - you name it and it bit the Penguins in their 3-1 loss to Buffalo

NHL: JAN 06 Sabres at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins get Tristan Jarry back in the net and stick with what’s been working lately out front.

The visiting Buffalo Sabres bringing the following lineup to the Saturday night game.

First period

Early in the first, Buffalo strikes first. Connor Clifton catches the Penguins in a line chance and wires a very nice pass up the ice. Alex Tuch has plenty of room to pick his spot and he does just that.

After that little slip, it’s all Pens all the time, who bombard Buffalo with 35 shot attempts in the opening period.

Pittsburgh even scores twice — but neither goal ends up counting.

Sidney Crosby was unknowingly a step offside when Jake Guentzel couldn’t get a rolling puck over the blueline quickly. The refs didn’t catch it live, so Crosby’s eventual beautiful drop pass for Drew O’Connor to steer into the net would be reversed on a coach’s challenge.

Undeterred, the first line scored again when Guentzel tipped in a Crosby shot from the right. Buffalo again protested, citing interference. Guentzel was if in the crease then just barely and did make the slightest of contact with the goalie and that was enough to get the call on the ice reversed yet again.

Mike Sullivan’s reaction was to laugh, and how could you not? 50/50 call didn’t go their way after a clear offside to take away two goals. Hockey can be cruel like that.

Buffalo leads 1-0 at the break, against all odds since Pittsburgh was the better team through 20 and put two pucks in the net.

Second period

Marcus Pettersson was tripped and the Pens got the first power play of the night without success.

Crosby got held up for a second power play that looked even worse than the first.

Noel Acciari got busted for hooking and Buffalo was off for their first power play. Jarry stops a few good chances.

Guentzel gets a clean breakaway, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is there for it.

The Pens get a power play but Crosby gets dinged for interference to cancel it.

Third period

Jansen Harkins shoots a puck that deflects off a Buffalo defender but the refs miss it and ring Harkins up for the delay of game. One of those kind of nights for the Pens. They kill the unjust power play off at least.

Perhaps feeling the need to even it up, Clifton AND Zemgus Girgensons take minor penalties in the same sequence to hand Pittsburgh a full two minutes of a 5-on-3. They don’t make it look pretty but finally Erik Karlsson finds the stick of Rickard Rakell for the deflection. 1-1 game.

The bounces are conspiring against the Penguins as well with two Pittsburgh players getting a piece of the puck but being unable to clear it from danger. Girgensons spins and smacks it in to send Buffalo to the lead with only 4:21 to play.

Pittsburgh pushes for a goal, Jarry is pulled but tries to scramble back to prevent a long range Rasmus Dahlin shot from going in. Wasn’t to be. 3-1 Buffalo lead.

The final horn sounds and the Pens can only wonder what if on this one.

Some thoughts

  • It was “frustration hockey” bingo tonight: bad refereeing, questionable goals being brought back, being offside in a manner that didn’t have anything to do with a goal, 42 saves for the other goalie, posts, bounces on the go-ahead goal. Woof. Sometimes it’s not you’re night and tonight it clearly wasn’t the Penguins’ night.
  • The offside goal was indisputably so, just bad luck Crosby’s internal timing got thrown off to be ahead of the play because of a rolling puck for Guentzel. The goalie interference call might even have been right, but was mighty close. And called a goal on the ice. For my money, even though slight contact took place, the attacking player didn’t prevent the goalie from playing his position; the goal was a result of the play developing to the goalie’s far-side anyways. Regardless, it’s a blow to occur so soon after an earlier would-be goal is wiped out. Having two close calls end up barely not counting is tough to take, but so it goes.
  • That said, for as determined and driven as the team looked in the first period to try and get a good goal to stand, that sort of drive slunk away in the second period and towards the end of the game. There were two power plays (including one early in the second period) that definitely derailed Pittsburgh’s momentum with poor play.
  • Night to remember for Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. He was making a ton of stops - breakaways on Crosby, Rakell and Guentzel were no problem, and just about anything he couldn’t get the Sabres’ video team wiped out anyways. Per Moneypuck, the Pens put up 3.85 expected goals on their 43 shots. It’s not like they didn’t have quality chances or looks to score. Gotta tip your cap to the other goalie, even if he was close to giving up three legit goals.

Tough one to take, but momma said there’d be days like this. Not much to do besides move onto the next — and it’s a big one for the Pens when they take to Philadelphia on Monday night.