PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have not beaten an Eastern Conference team since Oct. 18 in Toronto and have now lost nine of 10 games despite dominating the Buffalo Sabres for the first 30 minutes. The Penguins raced to a 4-1 lead behind defensive effort, puck support and sloppy Buffalo play. However, Buffalo took it from there and the Penguins 28-13 lead in shots quickly became a 35-34 disadvantage as Buffalo surged and the Penguins hid. The Sabres scored four unanswered goals, culminating in Jack Eichel’s overtime winner and beat the Penguins 5-4 at PPG Paints Arena, Monday.
Penguins center Derick Brassard scored his first goal since opening night and the opening goal of the game. Midway through the first period, Penguins netminder Casey DeSmith made a stick save and flung the puck towards Patric Hornqvist on the wall. Hornqvist quickly moved the puck ahead to Brassard (2) who burst past the Buffalo defense for a breakaway goal.
Newly acquired Penguins winger Tanner Pearson had a few Grade A scoring chances in the first period, but later in the first period it was his snap pass to Phil Kessel (10) on the edge of the crease which earned Kessel another goal and was Pearson’s first point as a Penguin. The Kessel goal gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead and rewarded the Evgeni Malkin line for a five-player defensive effort and jailbreak transition to offense.
The Penguins third goal also was scored by the Brassard line. Seven minutes into the second period, Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel swarmed the Buffalo defenders at the Penguins blue line for a takeaway and two-on-one break, Hutton stopped Hornqvist but Guentzel (7) poked the rebound into the yawning cage.
Early in the second period, Pearson (1) outworked 2018 first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin near the blue paint and poked a Jack Johnson rebound past Hutton for the Penguins 4-1 lead. It was Pearson’s first goal since last March, as a member of the L.A. Kings
However, after Pearson’s goal, the Penguins decided they were back and the game was over. Buffalo disagreed.
After Malkin passed up a shot on a three-on-one which could have effectively ended the game, Buffalo pinned the Penguins in their defensive zone and took advantage of the Penguins scrambles. Uncovered defenseman Zach Bogosian (2) blasted a shot past DeSmith from the top of the right circle to begin the Buffalo comeback.
A few minutes later, former Johnston Tomahawk Casey Nelson (1) scored when his shot caromed off Johnson’s skate past DeSmith.
Midway through the third period, Casey Middlestat (3) tied the game as the Penguins team-defense indifference and disorganization continued. Malkin failed to clear the puck and Buffalo was able to set up tents in the offensive zone.
In overtime, the Penguins couldn’t find their footing and the Sabres quickly took advantage. Malkin fumbled the puck on an entry and turned the puck over. Jack Eichel raced in on a 2-on-1 and whipped a shot on net that just trickled by DeSmith, ending the game and completing the comeback.
Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton earned his keep in the first period, too. Hutton stopped no less than five high danger chances, including Malkin who slipped the puck through his own skates to shoot the opposite direction. Hutton stopped the extraordinary move and the following rebound. Hutton also stopped Penguins center Derek Grant’s shorthanded breakaway and Zach Aston-Reese’s rebound attempt.