Take nothing away from Ryan Miller, he played the game of his life, stopping 29 of 32 shots while making some big saves during the game.
The European Union was flying in the first 20 minutes. Mid-way through the period, Evgeni Malkin took an outlet pass from Petr Sykora and took off down the right wing.
Gino went between his legs to get around a Sabres' defenseman, then in one swift motion, he backhanded a pass toward the front of the net.
Ruslan Fedotenko seems to have finally learned how to play with Malkin; by crashing the net. Tank was in the perfect position to receive the pass and bury the first goal of the game. 1-0 Pens.
I'm not going to job Brooks Orpik. He has been stellar on the blue line this season, but tonight just wasn't his night.
Orpik hand wrapped an early Christmas present for Derek Roy, then delivered it right onto the blade of his stick in the neutral zone. Roy broke into the zone, two-on-one, and called his own number, beating Dany Sabourin to even the score at one.
After the goal, the Sabres started to look hungry. They got a two-on-one against Penguins' defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who was playing his first game in the National Hockey League.
Lovejoy looked like a 10 year veteran on the play, staying with his man on the side of the net instead of following the puck across the ice. BLJ broke up the play and thwarted the Sabres' attack.
Miroslav Satan had a rather disappointing game tonight as well. He had a golden scoring chance when Crosby found him late with a nifty backhand pass, but Miro wasn't expecting the puck and ended up kicking it into the corner.
The European Union struck again, this time thanks to a quick game of tic-tac-toe in the Sabres' zone.
Sykora took the puck behind the net and found Malkin on the left boards. Gino snapped a quick pass to Tank in the slot. Tank released the shot while falling to the ice, and beat Miller top shelf. 2-1 Pens.
Jason Pominjoke took a hooking penalty late in the period, giving the Pens a power play.
During the penalty kill, Thomas Vanek decided to ignore the NHL rule book and lay down on the puck behind the Penguins' net. That warranted him two minutes in the sin bin for delay of game, and gave the Pens a five-on-three opportunity.
Seriously, how many times does the official have to tell you to "get up" before you actually do it?
Malkin unloaded a few big blasts, but the two man advantage would carry over into the second period.
Just as Pominjoke's penalty expired, Jochen Hecht tripped up Alex Goligoski, giving the Pens yet another two man advantage.
Crosby broke his stick on the ensuing faceoff, but headed to the bench for a fresh piece of lumber.
New stick in hand, Sid crept down the right wing and slid a pass cross-ice to the left point. Kris Letang received the puck cleanly, took a quick look at the net, and rocketed a wrist shot toward the cage.
The puck snuck in behind Miller, giving Letang his first goal of the season, and first in 82 games. 3-1 Pens.
Crosby tried to build off of the momentum from Letang's goal on a breakaway chance against Miller.
Sid deked to the backhand, but Miller made a sprawling save, with his head, to turn the Penguins' captain aside.
Ales Kotalik banged home a garbage goal when Orpik committed another turnover, this time right in front of his own net. 3-2 Pens.
Vanek was hit with an interference call and Lindy Ruff picked up an extra two minutes for harassing the officials. That's a call you don't see made all that often, so Ruff must have reminded Justin St. Pierre how great his wife looked last night.
The Pens couldn't get the job done on their third five-on-three of the game, thanks to some solid goaltending from Ryan Miller, and some not-so-solid power play tactics from themselves.
Daniel Paille picked up some more trash in front of the Pens' net to even the score at three before the end of the period.
Late in the period, Lovejoy came around his own net with his head down. Paul Gaustad took the liberty of welcoming BLJ to the NHL with a thunderous check.
Malkin didn't take too kindly to the hit and started mixing it up with two Sabres behind the cage.
Coincidental roughing penalties were issued to Malkin and Clarke MacArthur, but somehow Gino wound up with an extra two minutes for cross checking.
No one besides the guy that made the call saw a cross check on the play, and even he didn't see it, probably because it never happened.
The Sabres were on the power play to start the third, but the Pens turned in a solid effort to kill it off.
Pominjoke and Vanek somehow ended up on a two-on-one, which ended in Vanek tapping in his 20th goal of the season. 4-3 Sabres.
Goligoski brushed some sweat off of his face and was called for hooking at 6:43 of the third, and you had a feeling that a win just wasn't in the cards for the Pens tonight.
They had already blown a two goal lead, the refs were clearly making up for giving the Pens 26 two man advantages, and Miller was mirroring a brick wall between the pipes.
The Pens had two more power play opportunities in the third, but Miller stood his ground to hang on for the victory.
Final Score: Buffalo 4 Pittsburgh 3
- The last time the Pens lost back-to-back games was October 28 and 30. A month and a half without back-to-back losses makes this one a little easier to swallow.
- Letang's goal was huge. He has been the Penguins' best defenseman all season long, on both sides of the puck, and it was great to see him end his scoring drought tonight.
- Lovejoy looked solid. He has a cannon slap shot, evidenced when he sailed a shot over the net in the third period which caused a ringing that probably still hasn't stopped on the end boards.
- Goligoski is bad. I say it every game, and every game it becomes more clear.
- When Ryan Miller is on, the Sabres are definitely a playoff team.
- Malkin registered eight shots on goal in the game and picked up two assists, pushing his season points total to 45.
- Sid had a helper, giving him 41 points on the year.
- Sabou looked a little shaky tonight. Could it be because he was starting his fourth consecutive game? Maybe, but the defense didn't help him out much in front of the cage.
- Fleury skated through an entire practice this morning. The Pens have three games remaining this week, before four off-days after Saturday's tilt with the Flyers. Look for MAF to be back in action next week, if not sooner.
- Janne Pesonen saw less than three minutes of ice time tonight and looks to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Perhaps a Jeff Taffe call-up is in the works?
- The Pens are off tomorrow before back-to-back games against New Jersey and the Islanders on Wednesday and Thursday night.
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