The Pittsburgh Penguins were without the entirety of their second line as Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, and now Kasperi Kapanen is injured. Brandon Tanev, too. Despite a decimated lineup, the Pittsburgh Penguins still put a few goals past the seemingly hopeless Buffalo Sabres for a 4-0 win at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday night.
The win also put the Penguins 10 points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the final playoff spot in the East Division.
Sidney Crosby had three assists and registered his 1300th career point. He was the eighth fastest in NHL history to reach the achievement.
“It’s a nice number. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. Tonight was a big game and we were just focused on getting a win,” Crosby said. “…I guess it’s a sign I’ve been playing for a pretty long time too. It’s always nice to get those milestones.”
Jared McCann scored a pair of power-play goals. It was the Penguins second win over Buffalo in two nights, and Buffalo is winless in 16 games (0-14-2).
Buffalo was without their interim head coach Don Granato and assistant coach Matt Ellis as the pair were quarantined as part of the NHL’s COVID protocol before the game.
GM Kevyn Adams coached the team, and Buffalo had several spirited shifts in the first period, but the Penguins scored the first goal and made news while doing it.
The 24-year-old Penguins rookie Radim Zohorna was thrust into the Penguins lineup today after head coach Mike Sullivan announced winger Kasperi Kapanen is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Zohorna was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins leading scorer with nine points (3g, 6a) in 11 games when he was recalled this week.
“That was the hardest I’ve seen the bench celebrate after a goal this season, I think,” goalie Casey DeSmith said. “Even I was back there raising my hands up. I was so excited, too. So it was really nice to see that.”
“So great, so great…” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said.
Later in the first period, the Penguins fourth line with Frederick Gaudreau and Anthony Angello cycled well. From the slot, Zohorna snapped a one-timer past Buffalo goalie Dustin Tokarski on his first NHL shot.
The Penguins scored again early in the second period. Buffalo defenseman Jacob Bryson took a high-sticking penalty near the Buffalo net just 14 seconds into the period.
The Penguins’ power play added a tally as Sidney Crosby, and Kris Letang maneuvered the puck to a wide-open Jared McCann (6) in the slot. A moment later, it was 2-0.
After the Penguins allowed 15 shots in the first period, they clamped down on Buffalo in the second period. They allowed only five, including killing a pair of penalties in the period.
As Buffalo faded in the middle of the third period, the Pittsburgh Penguins put another spot on the scoreboard via the power play. Seven seconds after Buffalo forward Riley Sheahan took a holding the stick penalty, McCann (7) ripped another wrister past Tokarski from the slot.
The Buffalo Sabres seemingly broke DeSmith’s shutout with six minutes remaining. Victor Olafsson buried Dyland Cozens end-to-end rebound, but Buffalo was offside by centimeters. The Penguins video God, Andy Saucier struck again.
DeSmith earned his eighth win this season and second shutout of the season with 36 saves. Jake Guentzel (14) added an empty-net goal.
The Penguins centerman was aggressive with his patchwork line on Thursday. According to our friends at NaturalStatTrick, the line allowed only one shot attempt against.
McCann let it rip from the slot, as he should do more often. The line with Zach Aston-Reese is pesky, it’s quick, and it knows how to play defense.
Buffalo was not without a few challenges. DeSmith saw through traffic to snare a few good shots. He did what he had to do.
Yes, a Sabres defenseman. He cracked Sidney Crosby in the first period, and Crosby was not the same for the rest of the game. Buffalo hounded and harrassed Crosby before Crosby had to detach.
That’s how to good physical hockey for your team.
1300 points. That’s a helluva career. He was a playmaker on Thursday. There was no reason to take the abuse down low. Not against Buffalo, not when the game was largely in hand after the first period.