Second-period goals from centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
lifted the Penguins to a 5-1 win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres. But
it was not lost on Bylsma that he'll find himself squaring off
against Crosby and Malkin — alongside Sabres goaltender Ryan
Miller, who was in net for Buffalo — in just a matter of days at
the Winter Olympics.
Miller may be the starting goalie under Bylsma, head coach of the
U.S. Hockey team. And Crosby (Canada) and Malkin (Russia) will soon
be foes in Sochi, Russia.
"I couldn't help but think about that as Crosby went down on that
breakaway against Miller," Bylsma said. "I was cheering the goal
Crosby's strike just over two minutes into the second period was the
turning point of the game and an exceptional display of elite skill.
The Penguins captain burst past center Brian Flynn and defenseman
Mike Weber before roofing a wrist shot above Miller and into the top
right corner of the net for his 28th goal of the season, giving
Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead — a lead they would not give away.
"(Matt) Niskanen delivered the puck to Sid right at full stride and
it's tough to handle and he breaks right in there, he's got really a
clean breakaway from the top of the circle," Bylsma said. "It was
such a nice play and a good pass and he cuts in there and he's got
plenty of time to survey the situation and snap it there."
Crosby ended a five-game goal drought with the effort.
"One game doesn't say a whole lot, but it's nice to score," Crosby
said. "You try to go out there and do the same thing every night,
work hard and hope you get rewarded. It's nice when they go in and
obviously to get a win here, with one more left here before the
This time around, Bylsma could enjoy it — and for good reason. His
Penguins continue to surge near the top of the NHL standings with 82
points, placing them in a tie with Chicago for the second-highest
point total in the league.
With the victory, the Penguins reached the 40-win mark faster than
any other team in franchise history. Pittsburgh has 40 wins through
57 games. Its previous franchise-best start was 40 wins in 65 games
during the 1995-96 season.
Right winger James Neal, center Brian Gibbons and left winger Harry
Zolnierczyk also scored for the Penguins (40-15-2) while goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves.
"I think we're aware of that stuff when everyone brings it up, but
hopefully we're thinking much more further ahead here," Crosby said.
"We've had some really good regular seasons in the past, I think
everyone's well aware of that. So I think at this point we're making
sure that we play the right way ... but the regular season is the
regular season. We're trying to prepare for something bigger,
[to top of second column]
Right winger Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres (15-33-8) while
Miller made 29 saves in defeat.
"That had nothing to do with Ryan," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan
said. "It was the guys in front of him. Our team, we need everyone.
We had a couple guys no-show tonight playing one of the better teams
in the league. You'd think they would excited to play and some of
It was the Sabres who actually opened the scoring. After forcing a
turnover deep in the Penguins end, Stafford gave the Sabres a 1-0
lead 5:58 into the first when he poked home a loose puck beside the
Pittsburgh net. Stafford now has seven points (five goals, two
assists) in his last six games.
It was all Pittsburgh after that. Zolnierczyk made it 1-1 with 4:59
remaining in the first when he beat Miller with a wrist shot to the
blocker side from close range.
Crosby made it 2-1 before Malkin chipped in with a highlight-reel
goal of his own. Malkin made it 3-1 with 2:12 remaining in the
second. The center sped past defenseman Jamie McBain for a breakaway
and beat Miller with a slick deke to his forehand. It was Malkin's
17th goal of the season.
"The (third) goal was really a killer," Nolan said. "They're a very
good team. When you have a soft dump in and Malkin gets the puck and
goes in for a breakaway, that's just bad, bad playing."
Gibbons increased Pittsburgh's lead to 4-1 5:22 into the third
period with a quick wrist shot after a faceoff win in the Sabres
Neal made it 5-1 with a wrist shot from long range with 7:48
NOTES: D Tyler Myers (lower body), C Ville Leino and C Zenon Konopka
were scratched for the Sabres. Myers was injured in Buffalo's 3-2
loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. ... RW Chuck Kobasew, LW
Taylor Pyatt and D Kris Letang were scratched for the Penguins. ...
This game featured 11 players who will play in the upcoming Winter
Olympics: C Sidney Crosby (Canada), LW Chris Kunitz (Canada), C
Evgeni Malkin (Russia), LW Jussi Jokinen (Finland), D Olli Maatta
(Finland), D Paul Martin (U.S.), D Brooks Orpik (U.S.), G Ryan
Miller (U.S.), G Jhonas Enroth (Sweden), D Henrik Tallinder (Sweden)
and C Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia). Each team's head coach (Dan
Bylsma, Pittsburgh/U.S.; Ted Nolan, Buffalo/Latvia) will also make
the trip to Sochi. ... This was the third and final meeting between
the Sabres and Penguins this season.
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