Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma was visibly grateful to the Pittsburgh crowd when they gave him a standing ovation during a first period video tribute that highlighted his coaching career with the Penguins.
He probably just wishes they had only been able to stand and cheer for that, rather than the four goals that the Penguins piled on the Sabres to skate away with a 4-3 win.
It was a night of firsts for the Pittsburgh Penguins, with three different players finding the back of the net for the first time this year. Pascal Dupuis opened the scoring on the night by pouncing on a loose puck that Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson couldn’t completely carrel and flicked it into the net. A failed attempt by the Sabres to clear their zone just a few minutes later led to Patrick Hornqvist eventually launching a shot past Johnson that put the Penguins up 2-0 early. Ben Lovejoy later added his first tally this season on a rush shortly after the Penguins successfully killed off a penalty.
The only Pittsburgh goal not to be a first this year for a Penguin came from perennial all-star Evgeni Malkin, who had a rebound off Johnson fall to his skates and needed no effort to tap it into a yawning Sabres’ net.
Buffalo initially tied the game at 2-2 late in the first period on goals from Jamie McGinn and Nicolas Deslauriers, both players getting their second goals this season. McGinn earned his second this year by tipping home a rocket of a shot by Rasmus Ristolainen, while Deslauries’s was a lightning-fast shot that came in response to a pass from Ryan O’Reilly behind the Pittsburgh net.
The Sabres gave Pittsburgh a scare late in the game by climbing to within one with under three minutes left. As Johnson went to the bench, Matt Moulson netted his third goal this season by tipping a shot from O’Reilly. The Sabres were granted a power play less than a minute later, but were unable to find the back of the Pittsburgh net one more time before the final horn.
The Sabres finished the night with a whopping 53 shots on goal, leaving the question open as to why Pittsburgh netminder Jeff Zatkoff didn’t earn a star from the media despite fending off 50 shots in what was his first NHL start this year.
Buffalo will have a short trip back home tonight and will be back on the ice in less than 24 hours. They’ll host the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow evening inside First Niagara Center for a rematch from an earlier contest this week in Philadelphia where Buffalo left with a 4-3 overtime victory.