The Buffalo Sabres picked up right where they left off the last time they visited the Consol Energy Center with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night. The loss is only the third in the Penguins’ last 24 games, two of which came at the hands of the Sabres.
The first period was very evenly played with both teams having several decent scoring opportunities. The Sabres jumped on top first when at the 12:49 mark of the period Drew Stafford blocked a clearing attempt along the boards and shuffled a pass to Cody Hodgson.
Hodgson got loose behind the Penguins’ net and found Thomas Vanek in the high slot for a one timer that beat the Pittsburgh net minder. The goal was Vanek’s team-leading 19th of the season. The Sabres lead however was short lived when the Penguins goal leader, Chris Kunitz, recorded his 22nd of the year just 20 seconds after the Buffalo goal. After recieving a pass from teammate, Brandon Sutter, Kunitz let a shot go from just above the left faceoff circle that fooled Miller and tied the game at one.
The second period was much like the first with both teams having good scoring chances, but both Ryan Miller and Marc-Andre Fleury were up to the task.With just over six minutes gone in the second period, Andre Sekera beat Fleury on a beautiful shot from the right point, but the goal was waved off.
Thomas Vanek was pushed into the Penguins goalie by Jussi Jokinen and both were called for penalties, Vanek for goaltender interferrance and Jokinen for holding. The period ended with the score remaining 1-1.
With Sabres defenseman Adam Pardy serving a late second period cross checking penalty, Buffalo began the third period short handed. Pittsburgh applied strong pressure for the opening minutes of the final stanza, but could not get the go ahead goal.
The teams continued exchanging scoring chances until Thomas Vanek showed why he is such a valuable member of the team. At the 6:11 mark of the period, Vanek outworked two Pittsburgh defenders and sent a pass to Jochen Hecht who was alone at the top of the faceoff circle.
Hecht blasted a shot over the left shoulder of Fleury to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead. With just under nine minutes remaining in the period, the Penguins once again tied the game. Pittsburgh showed off their potent powerplay with Christian Ehrhoff in the penalty box for delay of game.
After recieving a pass from Kris Letang, Jerome Iginla slapped a shot past a screened Ryan Miller for his 14th of the year. With only 2:34 left in the third it looked as though the Sabres might get their second goal of the game called back when Steve Ott smacked the puck out of the air at a questionable height. After a quick review the goal was allowed and Buffalo took the 3-2 lead.
The Sabres added an empty net goal with 33 seconds left when Cody Hodgson once again found Thomas Vanek in front of the net for the easy tap in. The goal gave Vanek 20 on the year and eight straight seasons of at least 20 goals.
The Buffalo Sabres will finish off the season Friday night at the First Niagara Center when they host the New York Islanders.