The streak is finally over for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they fell to the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, 4-1. Kevin Porter scored two goals and Ryan Miller made 19 saves for the Sabres who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Pittsburgh (28-9-0) was only three wins away from holding the longest winning streak in the history of the National Hockey League. It was their first game without Sidney Crosby (jaw) in the starting lineup and consequently, they struggled to create any type of offense.
Buffalo (14-17-6) scored a short-handed goal in the first period on Porter’s first goal of the season. With Mike Weber in the penalty box on a double-minor, Porter ripped a shot past Tomas Vokoun to end the Penguins’ netminder’s shutout streak.
Pittsburgh answered just minutes later with four seconds left in the second penalty when Jarome Iginla cashed in on his first goal as a Penguin. However, that seemed to be the only thing that brought the fans out of their seats at the Consol Energy Center.
“It felt good to get the first [goal] as a Penguin,” Iginla said in the post-game. “At first I had great looks playing with [Malkin] and Neal but it’s a disappointing feeling now.” The Penguins’ outshot the Sabres in the first period 11-8, five of those 11 shots came from Iglina.
The Sabres added to their lead in the second period when Cody Hodgson scored on a wrap-around attempt that fooled and tangled up Vokoun. Porter made it 4-1 with his second of the game just over a minute later.
At that point, Vokoun was replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury who saw his first bit of action since getting injured on March 26 against the Montreal Canadiens. Fleury stopped all 16 shots he faced in the loss.
The Penguins dug themselves a hole midway through the second period, trailing 4-1. They took a series of three penalties midway through the frame failing to gain any type of momentum as they were outshot 12-3 in the second period.
Having blown ten leads in the third period (most in the NHL), the Sabres did a good job of not allowing the Penguins to generate many chances late in the game, mostly due to their effort of drawing four penalties after taking a three-goal lead.
“Throughout the last month, we have been in situations where we have been down in the third period,” Head Coach Dan Bylsma said after the game.
Bylsma was asked about the teams’ ability to come from behind as they did eight times during the streak. “I think our mindset was there, I think taking too many penalties especially in the second and third [period] prevented us from doing that.”
Tyler Kennedy replaced Crosby on the top line with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Crosby is still listed as “out indefinitely” after undergoing surgery on a broken jaw he suffered Saturday. Pittsburgh also played without Kris Letang (lower body) and Paul Martin (hand).
Buffalo will continue to make a strong push for the playoffs as they play eight of their remaining 11 games at home. They will start by hosting division rival the Ottawa Senators Friday night.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will play their next two games against the New York Rangers– one of the many teams in the Eastern Conference battling for the last playoff spot. The Rangers will host the Penguins on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Ekiert’s three stars:
3- Jarome Iginla; RW, Penguins- Goal (first as a Penguin)
2- Steve Ott; C, Sabres- GW Goal
1- Kevin Porter; C, Sabres- 2 Goals
Game Notes: James Neal switched to the left wing where he will likely play the rest of the season. The move is to make sure Jarome Iginla can remain on the right wing, where he has played a majority of his career; Going into Tuesday’s game, Tomas Vokoun has won seven straight games and sported a 0.67 GAA and a .977 save percentage during that streak; Penguins’ defenseman Brooks Orpik played his 622nd Tuesday, a new record for a Penguins’ blueliner; Marc-Andre Fleury was dressed during Tuesday’s game as Tomas Vokoun’s backup and will more than likely get the start Wednesday against the New York Rangers in game 2 of a back-to-back.