Buffalo (21-10-2) vs. Pittsburgh (24-10-1)
Another big challenge for Buffalo arrived on Saturday night. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins were in town to try and defeat the Sabres. Pittsburgh had Friday night off, while the Sabres were busy beating Toronto. Thomas Vanek was unable to play due to an upper body injury. However, Patrick Kaleta was back in the lineup for the first time since suffering a concussion in Ottawa.
The Penguins entered the game with the No. 4-ranked offense at 3.11 goals per game. The Sabres have the No. 3-ranked defense at 2.18 goals-against per game. These two teams split the four game series last year.
Jason Pominville put Buffalo on top as he slapped home a rebound. Clarke MacArthur and Toni Lydman earned assists on the goal. Pittsburgh would soon respond. Sidney Crosby had an excellent chance to score on Lalime, but was foiled. A few seconds later, Pittsburgh would tie the game on a goal by Chris Kunitz.
Both teams had plenty of chances to score in the second period, but neither was able to do so.
To begin the third, Evgeni Malkin took to penalties. As soon as he stepped out of the box after the first one, he interfered and headed right back in. Buffalo had a huge opportunity to take the lead, but nobody was able to score.
Both teams had plenty of opportunities to score on the power play throughout the game. Pittsburgh went 0 for 5 and Buffalo went 0 for 7 on the power play. The Sabres even had a chance to win it in overtime as a result of a high sticking penalty to Brooks Orpik.
The shootout looked scary for Buffalo, especially without Thomas Vanek. Although Lalime has been playing very well, the Penguins have some of the top shooters. Kris Letang scored first in the shootout, putting the pressure on. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all three Buffalo shots. Lalime would delay the the Penguins’ win with a goal line stop on Crosby. Entering the night, Crosby was a perfect 5 for 5 in shootouts on the season.
Patrick Lalime had a very strong start for the second time in a row. “[He] saved a great couple of breakaways, couple of good shots” said Henrik Tallinder. “We broke down a bit and he was there for us.”
It is rumored that Lalime will also get the start Monday night in Toronto. Despite the loss, Lalime has gained confidence, driving him to do better every start. “I thought we did great right from the start, Lalime said. “We had our chances, but just couldn’t get the game winning goal.” Lalime was asked what advice he received from Ryan Miller prior to the shootout. “He told me Crosby was going to go five hole” explained Lalime. Crosby did attempt to go five hole, and Lalime was ready for it.
Pittsburgh and Buffalo played a very even match, and Head Coach Lindy Ruff was proud of the way his team played. “It was a hard fought game against a real good team” said Ruff. “I like the way we competed.” Buffalo will host the Penguins again a week from Tuesday, giving the Sabres an opportunity to gain a little revenge.
The Sabres will head out to Toronto for Monday’s matchup against the Maple Leafs. Toronto is coming off of a 2-0 shutout against Boston on Saturday. As a reminder, Monday’s game will be on Versus. The only place to hear Rick Jeanneret and Harry Neale is on WGR 550.