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Penguins Can’t Finish; Lose Lead, Game to Buffalo in OT 4-3

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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated most of the first 60 minutes but found themselves on the wrong side of the puck on the back half of the third period. The Penguins gifted the Buffalo Sabres a couple of goals in the first period and then couldn’t close the deal late in the third period. Buffalo scored in the final minutes then again in overtime to beat the Penguins 4-3 at the Key Bank Center, Friday night.

Former Penguins winger Conor Sheary (10, 11) scored his second goal of the game in overtime. The Penguins have lost the third period lead in the final three minutes in two of their last three games.

The Penguins continued to pressure Buffalo with puck possession in the low zone into the third period, until the second half of the third period. Buffalo finally found their stride. With just a few minutes left, newly acquired defenseman Brandon Montour’s (6) shot from the point hit Pettersson and skipped past Murray.

The Penguins almost won the game in OT when Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel pinned Buffalo in the defensive zone for most of their shift and Malkin hit the post.

“That’s they way it goes sometimes. We haven’t buried the chances we’ve gotten and it goes back the other way,” Sidney Crosby said.

The Penguins quickly responded to an early Buffalo goal with a beautiful finish. Nick Bjugstad spun away from one defender along the midwall and stormed the net. The big 6-foot-5 center unleashed a wicked wrist shot off the short-side post for the Penguins first goal. Bjugstad (8) tallied his third goal as a Penguin and looked every bit the power forward the Penguins would like to make him.

The Penguins had 73 percent of the shots in the first period, but Buffalo had two of the three goals including a power-play tally after an inexplicable roughing call on Garrett Wilson.

Three minutes into the game, Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson was feeling generous. When Buffalo took away the wall, Pettersson chose to attempt a pass through the middle of the ice, which was predictably intercepted. A moment later, Jack Eichel (23) zipped a shot past Penguins goalie Matt Murray.

After referee Tim Peel assessed Garret Wilson a penalty for finishing his check at center ice, the Penguins PK got sloppy. Actually, the PK looked a bit silly. Penguins forward Jake Guentzel didn’t get to Conor Sheary in the slot nor did defenseman Zach Trotman who went down in the crease. Sheary (10) had a clean look from 15 feet away.

The Penguins continued to pressure Buffalo through the first two periods. They lead the shot battle 27-10 midway through the second period.

The Penguins pressure turned to good fortune later in the second period. Buffalo forward Scott Wilson earned a four-minute high sticking penalty when he drew blood from Marcus Pettersson.

The Penguins converted their momentum into goals. Two of them.

First, Patric Hornqvist (16) deflected Justin Schultz’ shot. It was Hornqvist’s first goal in 18 games. It was also Hornqvist’s 700th NHL game, which places him second all-time for players picked last overall.

One minute later on the second two-minute penalty, Sidney Crosby (28) made an awkward one-timer look easy. A pass from Evgeni Malkin was just a bit out of Crosby’s wheelhouse. However, Crosby fell to the ice after contorting himself into a shooting position to snap it past Buffalo goalie Linus Ullmark.

“We didn’t have to chase it, we had some good chances,” Crosby said.

Ullmark was shaky but also brilliant. He stopped 41 of 44 shots. Murray was the victim of some bad breaks and defense. Murray stopped 26 of 30.

–More from the Penguins locker room shortly–

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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