The Penguins got back in the win column with a 5-3 win over arguably the hottest team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres. Coming in the Sabres earned their way into a tie for the final playoff spot with a ridiculous streak of hockey but the Pens were able to come in and outwork the hot team and snap their five game winning streak.
The game was really back and forth for the entire game and it only got better as the game went on. The first period was really, really, sloppy and you didn’t really know what was going on. Ryan Miller and Brent Johnson were really bad and it looked like a game where it was going to be the first team to 10 was going to win. The second period got a little better and the third period was unreal back and forth action. It was really playoff style atmosphere the third period and you were on the edge of your seat with every shot and every breakout. The goaltender got better as the game went on and both guys made huge saves to keep their respective teams in it.
The Penguins never trailed in the game and held the lead pretty much throughout. Evgeni Malkin (power play) and Sidney Crosby scored go ahead goals (at the time) while the Sabres responded with (weak) goals from Jordan Leopold and Tyler Ennis. A pair of goals in the second period really put the Pens ahead for good. James Neal (power play) and Steve Sullivan scored less than four minutes apart to give them a two goal lead that would hold. Thomas Vanek scored on a really fluky goal to cut the lead to one just before the end of the second period but that was it for the scoring for the night.
One of the best chances the Sabres had came at the end of the game. Malkin went off after throwing the puck out of play which gave Buffalo a power play for pretty much the final two minutes of the game. Johnson and the PK put their collective balls on the line and thwarted some big time chances and give the Penguins the much needed two points.
Johnson started off the game really bad. I mean really bad. The second goal he gave up was pretty embarrassing but he really rebounded well in the latter half of the second period and third period to get a huge win and two points. Truth be told this was probably the last time that Beej will see the ice baring an injury to MAF but it was good to be able to give MAF an entire night off to regroup. Any points you can get with your backup goaltender, especially with how bad said backup goaltender has played this year, is huge. Big props to Beej. When the team needed him he stepped up. Much respect.
For as much as people talked about how bad the five forward power play has been it stepped up in a big way and scored two power play goals in three attempts and that is pretty much the reason for the win tonight along with Beej. Granted the power play did give up a few short handed chances with the five forwards but it did not surrender any shorthanded goals. The five forward power play is not idea but I will take a pair of power play goals any day of the week even if it means you give up a chance or two. That is when you need your goaltender to step up.
Jordan Staal was pretty good from the faceoff circle tonight. He won 11-of-19 attempts and he was taking some of the biggest faceoff’s of the game on the PK. That is part of the game that he has improved on this year and he really has been a complete player.
After having a pair of subpar games Sidney Crosby really stepped up and had an outstanding game tonight. He ended the night with four points which gives him 601 points for his career and makes him the seventh fastest player in NHL history to reach the 600 point plateau.
The most impressive part of the night was the passing. He made some ridiculous passes that set up a pair of goals and those are passes that not many players can make. It is truly special to watch him play and he has been getting better since his return and I am thinking he will be more than ready when he gets into the playoffs.
Oh yea, Crosby can score goals too.
The Penguins now don’t play until Sunday when they take on the Flyers. This is going to be the first round playoff matchup and with home ice still on the line it will most likely be a playoff atmosphere at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins magic number to clinch home ice in the first round is now seven.
The last thought of the night is that the Penguins absolutely own Ryan Miller.