The Buffalo Sabres had a one-goal lead three times, and three times the Pittsburgh Penguins did just enough to keep the game in reach and get the tying goal. Despite being outshot 32-24, the Penguins forced overtime and a shootout, but only got one point.
Towering Buffalo forward Tage Thompson has two goals in regulation and scored in the shootout. Alex Tuch finished it on the third shootout attempt. Buffalo beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in a shootout at KeyBank Arena on Wednesday.
It took the Penguins about 50 minutes to find their better game. After a couple of snoozing periods and missed opportunities, the Penguins finally answered the bell later in the third period.
In the first 61 seconds of the third period, Thompson scored his second goal of the game when both Brian Boyle and Chad Ruhwedel chased the puck behind the Penguins’ net. Thompson (27) was uncovered for the point-blank goal.
“You don’t want to use it as any sort of excuse, but I think playing back to backs, it is never easy. I mean, you have to give them credit, too. They played a good uptempo game and made it tough for us to get any sustained offense against them,” Mike Matheson said. “We didn’t really generate a lot of time in their zone, it seemed like we were in our zone a lot throughout the game. So it’s never an easy way to win games.”
After slumbering through much of the final period, and most of the 60-minute game, the Penguins forced overtime with a late third-period power-play goal, and it was chalkboard perfection. After an offensive zone faceoff win, the Penguins quickly worked the puck around the perimeter. The fourth of four quick passes settled on defenseman Kris Letang’s stick. Letang (7) snapped a shot past Buffalo goalie Craig Anderson.
The Penguins eased into the first period. Playing the second of back-to-back games, they weren’t expending maximum energy. A late push closed the shot gap, but neither Buffalo nor the Penguins lit up the score sheet.
Later in the first period, Buffalo forward Tage Thompson scored the only goal of the period. The Penguins collapsed deep into the defensive zone, and the 6-foot-7 Thompson (26) stepped inside the right-wing dot to rip a shot over Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith.
“…Especially their top line off with Thompson and (Alex) Tuch. They’re quick. They’re good, long sticks with a lot of speed that they can get in there and disrupt plays. And they’re good at reading things and reading what you’re trying to execute on your breakouts. And so it can be difficult when teams are doing that,” Matheson said.
Sidney Crosby scored the first Penguins goal. In the opening minute of the second period, Crosby finished the Penguins’ power play on the rush with a wrister from the slot that whizzed through Anderson.
Anderson, who recently won his 300th career game, wasn’t heavily tested in the second period. After a slow first period in which the Penguins snapped just nine shots, they sent only eight towards the 40-year-old Anderson in the second.
Trailing 2-1, Evgeni Malkin scored without a legitimate shot on the net. From below the goal line, Malkin (13) shoveled the puck towards the net, off of defenseman Henri Jokiharju, and past Anderson.
Buffalo took a 2-1 lead later in the second period. After pinning the Penguins in the defensive zone for what seemed like an eternity or two TNT intermission shows, Buffalo got a fourth-line goal from Zemgus Girgensons (8). The Penguins chased the puck in the zone without being able to settle the puck or begin a breakout, and Girgensons fired the loose puck from the slot past DeSmith.
DeSmith did well to stop 21 of 23 shots through two periods. He made 30 saves on 33 shots, overall. Two Buffalo players led all players with four shots in regulation: Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin.
Buffalo also had six takeaways in the first two periods, compared to just two Penguins steals.
Buffalo had won four of their previous five games. The Pittsburgh Penguins had won five of their previous six. The Penguins have points in 16 of their last 17 visits to Buffalo (13-1-2) dating back to March 30, 2012.
Newly acquired Penguins winger Rickard Rakell not only played with third-line center Jeff Carter, but also flipped to the right wing to play with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel for several shifts in the second period.