The Pittsburgh Penguins again squelched the Buffalo Sabres in the third period and won another game in regulation. The Penguins only needed a second-period power-play goal by Jake Guentzel, and the team defense did the rest. Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith stopped all 24 shots, and the Penguins put away Buffalo, 3-0 at the KeyBank Center on Saturday night.
The win advanced the Penguins to 17-9-1, and further strengthened their hold on third place in the East Division. Both teams chasing the Penguins, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, lost on Saturday. The Penguins now lead Boston by three points and Philadelphia by six, though each has two games in hand.
“We put some wins together here, which is great for the players. It’s great for us. I’m thrilled for the players. And I think it starts with their consistent complete their consistent intensity,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “And we’re getting contributions to our lineup from our goaltender on out.“
The Penguins and Buffalo played a scoreless game for over 36 minutes. The high-danger scoring chances were as rare as interesting network TV shows. Each team only had two in the first period. There were only three in the second period, and the Penguins had all of them.
The Penguins began to chip at the ice, figuratively not literally, later in the second period. Sidney Crosby sprang Jake Guentzel for a real beauty in the slot, but Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton stopped the chance. Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen began working towards the net, too.
“You’ve got to be able to play in these kinds of games. In these low-scoring games, you have to just stay patient. Not be high risk,” Guentzel said. “It’s good we find different ways to win. So it’s nice to know that we can be low-scoring, defend hard, and obviously, Casey (DeSmith) played a great game.”
The Penguins finally earned a power-play chance with about four minutes remaining in the second period when Malkin charged the net for a Kapanen rebound. Buffalo defenseman Colin Miller tripped Malkin, which led to the first goal of the game.
The power play lasted just 13 seconds. The Penguins won the faceoff, and Guentzel (10) deflected Malkin’s pass on net, then swatted the rebound out of the air. Guentzel has a goal in three straight games. The goal was his seventh shot on goal in the game.
“Yeah, just off the faceoff, just trying to do a little play,” Guentzel said. “I could help Sid, Rusty, up to Tanger and (Malkin). (Malkin) found me in the slot alone. I was just trying to tip it in.”
The first goal is paramount against Buffalo, which was just 2-13-2 when the opponents scored first.
The Penguins maintained their edge through the third period, as well. Through the first 15 minutes of the third period, the Penguins outshot Buffalo 9-3, and it was the Penguins who had the scoring chances.
Sidney Crosby scored a nearly 200-foot empty netter with one minute remaining. Then Mark Jankowski buried the second empty-netter.
Guentzel led all players with eight shots on goal. Kris Letang had five.
Pittsburgh Penguins Gold Stars:
It wasn’t the prettiest game because both sides stayed buttoned up—lots of skating. Solid puck movement. But neither exposed themselves to odd-man breaks nor took dangerous risks.
The Buffalo defenseman was all over the ice. He dished seven credited hits, three shots on goal, two missed shots, and one blocked shot. And he cleared a bouncing puck from the creased, which was a sure Penguins goal. He was a force that merited recognition.
They were connecting well. You could hear their voices over the empty-arena broadcast crowd noise. Their puck work and movement in the offensive zone should make coaches happy. Kapanen’s defensive hustle was also impressive.