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Penguins romp Sabres in Buffalo

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A storm that moved in from the south pounded Buffalo on Wednesday.

The city got a few inches of snow, too.

The Sabres dropped a second game in as many weeks to the Pittsburgh Penguins on the NBC Sports Network, falling to their nearby rival 5-1 inside First Niagara Center.

“There’s two different teams out there,” said Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan following the contest. “[The Pittsburgh Penguins] are very talented. That’s what happens.”

Buffalo showed a lot of promise, at first. They generated plenty of scoring chances, crashed the net often—leaving Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to regularly flop around in desperate attempts to fend off pucks—and even scored the first goal of the game; Tyler Ennis’s wraparound was stopped, but Drew Stafford threw himself into the fray at the Pittsburgh net and jammed the puck past Fleury for his fifth goal in the last six games, and his seventh point in the same span.

Certainly not a bad start to show the national audience on NBC, against one of the league’s elite clubs, no less.

But then that elite club proved exactly why they’re referred to as such. The Penguins took a stranglehold on the game toward the tail end of the first period and never relinquished, delighting the throngs of Pittsburgh fans in attendance.

The Penguins’ offense was powered by both familiar and unfamiliar faces. Superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each had their own highlight reel moment, while left winger Harry Zolnierczyk’s goal was just the fifth of his NHL career. Zolnierczyk’s tally came late in the first after he accepted a pass from right winger Craig Adams in front of Ryan Miller and threw it above the Buffalo netminder.

Malkin needed no such help. The Russian center’s unassisted goal looked like a shootout attempt, complete with Malkin dodging Miller’s poke-check.

Crosby’s goal may have had helpers on the stat sheet, but the Penguins’ captain stole the show as he slipped past two different Sabres while on the power play and beat Miller over the left shoulder.

Pittsburgh also saw a goal by center Brian Gibbons, who rifled a shot through traffic and into the Buffalo net immediately after Brandon Sutter won a faceoff in the Buffalo zone. Right winger James Neal netted his 19th of the year on a laser that breezed by Miller.

While it seemed as if every Penguin had their own moment of glory, the number of Sabres who could brag about their showing tonight is as sparse as it gets. Defensemen Mike Weber and Jamie McBain were highlighted by the media in Nolan’s post-game press conference for their particularly poor performance, between foolish penalties and reckless checks that usually provided Pittsburgh with a breakaway.

“We need everyone,” Nolan said. “We had a couple of guys no-show tonight.”

Hopefully they return in a hurry, as the Sabres will be back on the ice tomorrow night in Ottawa to face off with the Senators. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.

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NHL Standings

DIVTEAMGPRECPTS
Atlantic Division Leaders:
A4732-12-367
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Metropolitan Division Leaders:
M4828-15-561
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-----------------------------------------
M4925-21-353
M4924-20-553
M4721-18-850
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A4719-22-644
A4515-21-939
A4712-26-933
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C4828-13-763
C4528-11-662
C4928-18-359
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P4631-11-466
P4626-14-658
P4725-16-657
Wild Card leaders:
C4827-17-458
C4627-16-357
-----------------------------------------
C4826-17-557
P4725-17-555
P4822-17-953
C4722-19-650
P4721-23-345
P4718-23-642
P4912-28-933