FIRST PERIODSticks down, pucks down and we were ready to go. It didn’t take long for Nick Bjugstad to make his presence felt has he barrelled in on goal and laid an elbow to the head of Buffalo netminder Jonas Brother Johansson. Bjugstad and Johansson collapsed, the puck was just chilling and the Patty Wagon added another one.
PATRIC HORNQVIST (16) Assisted by Bjugstad & McCann (20) @ 7:56The Sabres challenged the goal for goaltending interference, the refs went to the replay booth to flip their trusty quarter and it landed on heads so the goal stood. Due to the lost challenge, the Sabres took a delay of game penalty and the Penguins had a chance to go up 2 early but instead, it was the Sabres getting a shorty after Bryan Rust forced a pass at the blue line that resulted in a 80 foot Jacob McCabe breakaway. The Penguins didn’t score on the remainder of their powerplay but were able to shrug off the goal and from the goal and tilted the ice a good bit. After some solid pressure, the second line got to work circling the zone. Bryan Rust sent the puck to the point to the stick of Marcus Pettersson who took one look at goal, saw Marleau sitting in the crease and fired it in. The Swede didn’t need Marleau’s stinkin’ help though.
MARCUS PETTERSSON (2) Assisted by Rust (27) & Malkin (47) @ 12:26When the Penguins get on their working it low to high kick they are a much better team and this is a perfect example of that. Rust goes up top, Marleau slides in for the tip, Pettersson gets it in his direction. If you watch the gif closely you will see the two Buffalo defenders in the middle of the ice shift to your right, their left, when Rust passes it to Pettersson. This shift in positioning opens up the lane for Pettersson to use. Chefs kiss. The game settled down for a bit following the goal. Kris Letang took a slashing penalty at 18:29 to put the Pens on the kill for the rest of the period. The Penguins finished the period with 16 shots and dominated the 5v5 play with 21 scoring chances for and just 12 against.
SECOND PERIODThe Sabres wouldn’t cash in on the remaining 30 seconds of their powerplay and we went to a long stretch of 5v5. unlike the first period, the second period was the Buffalo Sabres Show with a guest appearance by Matt Murray. If anything, this period was a good reminder that there isn’t an easy night in the NHL. The Sabres were pouring it on, and we should pour one out for my good friend Jesse Marshall who made the costly mistake of pointing out that Jack Johnson makes poor decisions. Despite Jesse being right, the rest of his night, and probably most of today was spent replying to people criticizing him for not “picking” on other players (like Letang) as much. Rest in Peace Jesse. PS, Jesse does a great job breaking down plays during the game and is worth the Twitter follow if you aren’t following him already. After Murray turned in some of his best work the Sabres gave the Penguins some breathing room when Larsson crashed into Murray and drew a goaltending interference penalty at 12:31. The powerplay got to work, Patric Hornqvist went to the goal and Evgeni Malkin fought like a dog to get him the puck. The rest is status quo.
PATRIC HORNQVIST (17) Assisted by Malkin (48) & Schultz (8) @ 13:32 PPGHornqvist is closing in on his 9th 20 goal season as he remains Mr. Consistency. This was also Malkins 69th point of the season, you know what to do. Two minutes after the goal the Penguins were given another opportunity with Lawrence Pilut, potentially a lawyer, slashed Patrick Marleau. The Penguins powerplay was on the ice for 33 seconds before Malkin was sent off for what looked like a back and forth but the refs decided there was only one at fault. Following the 4v4 the Sabres had 30 seconds of powerplay time that the Pens killed off. By this time, there were just 3 minutes remaining in the period and those played out scoreless. By the time the buzzer sounded the Penguins had generated just 3 even strength scoring chances compared to the Sabres 13. Matt Murray was the only reason the Pens carried a lead into the intermission.
THIRD PERIODAs the third period started the focus was on the Penguins ability to erase the second period and get back to their game. Unfortunately, their efforts were stalled when the Schultz-Johnson pairing got beat less than two minutes in. The Sabres PR team didn’t bother putting up a highlight of the goal so I will paint you a picture. Imagine Jack Johnson is the Incredible Hulk, but instead of only saying “Hulk SMASH” he says “Johnson HIT” and that pretty much helps you understand what goes through his head every play. Fortunately for Murray, the team responded by putting their foot back on the gas pedal. Five minutes later it was Sidney Crosby driving down the wing. We’ve seen it a million times, but it never gets old. Puck is on his backhand. He has Sheary to the left. He’s going to pass. Nah, he’s going to rifle a backhander in shortside because he is Sidney Fucking Crosby.
SIDNEY CROSBY (15) Assisted by Zucker (20) @ 6:02This will never get old, and I don’t have the words to describe how difficult this shot is to pull off. Teddy Blueger would take a high sticking penalty a minute after the Crosby goal to give the Sabres one last chance but the penalty killers weren’t having it. The rest of the period played out with the Penguins hitting a couple posts and time would click away on another win.
- Many Matt Murray haters say they “want him to steal one for us once in a while.” He did just that in the second period, and turned out a .933 save percentage overall.
- Many people were upset about Sullivan’s decision to start Murray over Jarry. Turns out the coach with two rings knows his team better than the Twitter users with zero.
- Nick Bjugstad looked really good in his return, and the impact is immediately felt. Evan Rodrigues received the fewest minutes with 10:14. Finally, Sullivan doesn’t have to stretch his top 6 while giving scrubs 5-7 minutes a night.
- The NHL should go back to white jerseys at home. This game just felt right. Also, Buffalo’s white jerseys with the gold are pretty sweet
- Huge double header this weekend with the Caps and Canes Saturday and Sunday. Buckle up buttercup.