Overreactions: Penguins (talented) beat Sabres (not so much)

467052031_slideMaybe if you watched the first ten minutes of this game, you thought the result might be in doubt. If you watched the last fifty, you knew better.

Even despite jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead on the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, the Sabres couldn’t take advantage of early chances before the giant awoke. The result of that is Pittsburgh dominating Buffalo en route to a 5-1 decision in the last game at First Niagara Center before the NHL’s Olympic hiatus.

Drew Stafford scored just under six minutes into the game, but that would be the only time Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury would be solved. Buffalo got other chances, but Matt Ellis and Zemgus Girgensons couldn’t quite get it done and the lead was nothing but tenuous.

Then the beast came to life.

A rough hit from Steve Ott on Penguins star Harry Zolnierczyk seemed to rile up the NBC darlings. Zolnierczyk would tie the game late in the first period, and it was over from there. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored highlight reel goals in the second, and Brian Gibbons and James Neal added third period insurance goals.

“That’s a good team over there that’s obviously playing extremely well,” Ott said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of turnovers in the second, but there’s no lack of passion. Every guy is out there working hard trying to compete.”

Ryan Miller, looking to impress Team USA coach Dan Bylsma on the other bench, was solid but helpless, making 29 saves and getting hung out to dry on many occasions.

  • Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd at FNC. Games against Pittsburgh are the right time to play the “Hey Penguins fan, do you know who Lasse Pirjeta or Tomas Surovy is?”
  • Speaking of those guys, we’d all love to have a guy like Malkin or Crosby right? Here is a good reminder of what it takes to get one of those guys. Embrace it, because in the end, we’ll have guys on our team scoring goals like those in the second period. And I’ll take that over hearing the word “compete” on a daily basis 11 times out of ten.
  • Mike Weber on the first Pittsburgh goal, top to bottom, was a complete mess. Sabres were possessing the puck well, moving up ice, and he gets it and fires it into the corner. Pittsburgh easily collects it, goes the other way and he chases them into the corner. By the time he gets there, the puck is headed to the front of the net and Zolnierczyk has all the time in the world to beat Miller. That shift in itself gets him cut from good teams.
  • Steve Ott is the captain of this team. I couldn’t think of a better guy in the room to fill that role, because he just represents everything about this team. This isn’t a compliment.
  • Lots of derisiveness comes up when the topic of “wanting to lose” is discussed. I get that people hate losing. But the point is, with the position the team’s in, you want to be in a spot where winning doesn’t hurt you. Going into last night, they were. They lost. Oh well. More room for error.
  • Drew Stafford, putting the puck in the net regularly, right on schedule.
  • Some people wanted to create the narrative that maybe this was Ryan Miller’s last game in Buffalo. Doubt it. He’s probably not getting moved before Friday’s deadline and the first game out of the break is at home. He’ll get another look. Bank it.
  • The joy in this season is watching lines of guys like Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn skate and grow as players. It’d be good to see these three get more ice time, because you’re starting to see some chemistry.
  • Kudos to the Sabres on the Olympic pregame ceremony. The song choice for the video was a bit weird, but nice effort.

3MI Three Star Selections 
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh (GW-PP Goal (28), assist)
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh (Goal (17), assist)
3. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh (22:51 TOI, +3)

Quote of the night:

“That’s a good team. Give them that. But that doesn’t stop you from trying to compete against them.” — Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan

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Posted on February 6, 2014, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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