Hockey Day in America wasn’t very joyous for Buffalo this year as the Sabres fell short to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 inside of First Niagara Center.
The afternoon affair, which was broadcast nationally on NBC, was a rematch of last year’s Hockey Day in America matchup between the two teams where Buffalo won in a landslide 6-2 victory.
This year, Pittsburgh achieved a shred of payback.
The Penguins wasted no time in getting themselves on the scoreboard. Just 35 seconds into the game, Pascal Dupuis found his way to the Buffalo crease unopposed and tipped in a Brooks Orpik shot to put Pittsburgh ahead.
They added to their lead less than a minute later while on the power play. Evgeni Malkin launched a hard shot that caromed off the boards and landed directly in front of Sidney Crosby as he was parked in front of the net. A simple lift by the Penguin’s scoring leader past a helpless Ryan Miller put Pittsburgh up 2-0 after just one minute, 27 seconds.
Buffalo eventually joined Pittsburgh on the scoreboard at 6:32 of the first period. After Christian Ehrhoff’s shot from afar rebounded off of Marc-Andre Fleury, Cody Hodgson collected it in front of the net and threw it past Fleury for his seventh goal on the season.
Another rocket of a shot by Ehrhoff allowed Buffalo to tie the game up at 2-2 nearly midway through the second period. While on a five-on-three power play, Ehrhoff fired a shot from beyond the circle that Thomas Vanek got his stick on and slipped by Fleury. The goal was Vanek’s 12th on the year and his first point after a three-game drought.
The Sabres jumped ahead on the scoreboard at 5:17 of the third. A shot by Nathan Gerbe produced yet another big rebound off of Fleury, which Steve Ott effortlessly tapped into the yawning Pittsburgh net.
Buffalo’s lead was short-lived, however, as the Penguins tied the game up not two minutes later, after a major giveaway by Sabres captain Jason Pominville gave Pittsburgh control in the Buffalo zone. Kris Letang eventually passed to a wide-open Dupuis who shot it into the open Buffalo net before Miller could cross.
The Penguins scored the game-winning goal with under two minutes left in the game. A shot by Sidney Crosby found its way through a cluster of players before ricocheting off Paul Martin’s stick and into the Buffalo net.
Despite the loss, Miller had an impressive showing with 31 saves—including a highlight-reel stop on James Neal late in the third—and rebounded brilliantly following the Sabres’ horrendous opening minutes.
The Sabres captain cannot say the same. Pominville’s giveaway in the third was not his only shortcoming of the game; it was his sixth game in a row without a goal after tallying six in his first ten.
He, along with the rest of the team, will look to turn things around this Tuesday night when the Sabres host the Winnipeg Jets inside of First Niagara Center for the teams’ first meeting of the season.