Pens-Sabres In-Game Blog
Friday, 03.30.2012 / 5:45 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
PENGUINS 5, SABRES 3
0:00: Brent Johnson gets the win in his first game back after missing 17 due to injury! Pens take this one 5-3. Huge victory for Pittsburgh.
0:05: Jordan Staal ices this one with an empty-netter! No. 11 with a Herculean effort on those shorthanded faceoffs and on the PK as a whole. PENS 5, SABRES 3
0:24: Oh, wow. Mad scramble to the cage. Orpik with a huge shot block, Johnny with a big pad save and a subsequent barrage by the Sabres that the Pens somehow thwart!
0:50: Now Miller is off. Sabres have a 6-on-4 advantage.
1:02: Sabres finally opt to pull Miller but are whistled for offsides seconds later. Coach Lindy Ruff uses his timeout to draw up a game plan.
2:21: Malkin tries to clear the puck out of his own zone and it floats into the stands without touching anything on its way. He'll get called for delay of game. Pens on an absolutely crucial PK right now.
5:31: I think this is our first whistle since Johnson had to flop on his back to save the puck from going over the goal line. This one is intense right now. Sabres pressing to tie it up; Pens doing their best to keep that from happening.
|"Talk about a close call nice recovery johnson #Pens"
10:10: Yikes. Johnny had a puck covered and decided to play it, not realized Vanek was lurking. The Sabres forward grabs it and slides one to the cage that goes under a surprised Johnny, but he recovers in time to flop on his back and cover the puck!!!
13:19: Tyler Myers blocks a shot and he's hurting. He limps to the bench after the puck is cleared out of his zone.
15:10: Both teams just traded a number of chances. Both goalies are playing awesome and the teams are playing solid defense. This has been a magnificent game to watch. Such a frenetic pace.
17:02: Johnson is having an absolutely stupendous outing tonight. So good to see after a tough stretch for the veteran netminder.
17:20: Sidenote: it's storming something fierce here in Pittsburgh. I can barely hear my TV over the thunder. Yikes! #scary
19:17: Sullivan hits Dupuis with a stretch pass and the winger is off to the races on a breakaway. He bears down on Miller and tries to beat him glove side, but the Sabres goalie makes the save. Absolutely crucial save by Miller.
20:00: Now the third period will officially begin. Puck drops. Game on!
1:37: Puck drops. We'll play the remaining 1:37 minutes left from the second period right now.
To no one's surprise, the Pens and Sabres produce another action-packed, exciting 18:17 minutes of hockey (play stopped with 1:37 left to fix a cracked partition; it will be added onto the third period). Lots of notes...
- Crosby has four points tonight, meaning he now has 601 career points. He is the 6th player in franchise history to reach that milestone.
- Crosby, who is playing in his 430th career game tonight, is the seventh-fastest player to reach 600 points in terms of games played.
- Crosby (24 years, 236 days as of today) is the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to reach that mark.
- Crosby is the youngest player to 600 points since Pierre Turgeon (24 years, 177 days) did so with the New York Islanders back in 1994.
- Neal now has 17 power-play goals this season, putting him in the league lead in that category.
- This Sullivan-Crosby-Dupuis line is magnificent. They've connected for six points (2G-4A).
- Pens are 2-for-3 on the power play
1:37: The officials decide to fix the partition now. The teams will head to their dressing rooms and add the remaining 1:43 of this period to the third. Pens have a 4-3 lead and 23-19 edge in shots.
2:00: Malkin robbed at the backdoor. He was thwarted by a puck that had a little too much momentum. It skips just past the post, meaning Malkin has to try and bring it back the other way before pushing it toward the net. Miller has time to get over and get his glove on it.
3:01: Sabres get a ridiculously lucky bounce just now. Though Strait has an open lane for his clearing attempt, it hits the partition (cracking it) and bounces to Vanek alone in front of the net. He pulls off some slick moves and tucks it past Johnny. PENS 4, SABRES 3
|"Sidney Crosby is as talented and impressive of a passer as I've ever seen. Ever. #Pens"
4:54: Crosby put his extraordinary vision on display this last shift. He wheels around the Sabres zone and after a pass to Michalek doesn't work out, Crosby recovers and makes a beautiful drop pass to Dupuis in front of the net. He can't quite handle the puck but still gets a shot off, and Sullivan is able to chip it past Miller. PENS 4, SABRES 2
|"600th career NHL point for Sid! Congrats! #Pens"
7:00: Crosby has three points tonight, meaning he has now hit the 600-point milestone. Crosby (24 years, 236 days as of today) is the seventh-youngest player in NHL history to reach that mark. He is the youngest player to 600 points since Pierre Turgeon (24 years, 177 days) did so with the New York Islanders back in 1994.
8:17: Some absolutely gorgeous passing between the Pens as they enter the Sabres zone. Malkin does the brunt of the work, wrapping a pass over to Crosby once they cross the blue line. Sid threads a perfect feed through the Sabres defenders over to Neal, who taps it home for his 17th PP goal of the season. PENS 3, SABRES 2
8:51: And now the Pens will head right back to the power play as Marcus Foligno trips Michalek in the Pens' D zone.
10:02: Sabres back to full strength.
|"You're a WALL Johnny!!!! #Pens"
10:50: Johnny has settled into this one. The Sabres get in a passing lane at the blue line and go down the other way. They get a point-blank shot in the slot, but Johnny comes up with a huge save!
12:02: Roy hooks Malkin as the Pens center had a step on him in a race for a loose puck. He'll go to the box and Pens go to the PP!
13:41: Neal, Vitale and Kennedy are on the ice as a line -- and No. 18 rings one off the post from the slot as their shift concludes.
15:33: And the Pens are able to kill it off. Pittsburgh back to full strength.
17:46: Sabres get an early PP when Cooke goes off for boarding. Pens to the PK.
19:41: And Crosby's line creates a great scoring chance off the opening faceoff, but Miller's able to stand tall. Good jump by the Pens to start the period.
|"one more point til sid's 600th! Let's go #Pens !!"
20:00: Puck drops to start the second. Game on!
The Sabres have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs thanks to their late-season push, but will go into the rest of their remaining games with their backs against the wall. The Pens are determined to end their mini slide that's seen them lose 3 of their last 4. Put those two teams together and you've got an exciting first period. It was a crazy back-and-forth affair, with the clubs trading chances that were edge-of-your-seat worthy. Johnson has produced some absolutely brilliant saves in his first game back after missing 17 with an undisclosed injury, and he'll only get better once he gets into a rhythm. I'm also really liking the Sullivan, Crosby and Dupuis line combo. They seem to have a lot of jump and chemistry out there.
- Dupuis extended his career-high point streak to 13 games with an assist on Crosby's goal. It is now the NHL's longest point streak this season.
- Not only did Dupuis get an assist in the period, but he saved a goal late in the period after a pair of ridiculous stops from Johnson.
- Malkin's goal was his 48th of the season, a new personal best for the Pens center.
- Sullivan assisted on both Malkin and Crosby's goals
|"What a final 2 minutes of that period... #pens"
0:00: That'll do it for an exciting first. Pens and Sabres are tied 2-2. Shots are even at 11.
|"Dupuis you are the man. Not only are you an amazing hockey player; you also have goalie skills #Pens"
2:11: Unbelievable scramble in front of Johnson. Johnny absolutely stones Pominville with a split-pad save on a point-blank chance. He gets his toe on a puck from Derek Roy at the post, then Dupuis sprints into the blue paint to save a goal when Johnny is still on the ice after those brilliant saves!
4:15: Tyler Ennis stickhandles around the Pens zone and looks like he's going to pass to Stafford, but instead he sneaks a shot through Johnson's pad to tie it up. PENS 2, SABRES 2
|"Duper's point streak now at 13 games...unreal #Pens"
5:00: Dupuis got an assist on Crosby's goal, extending his career-high point streak to 13 games. It's the NHL's longest point streak this season. #SuperDuper
7:08: Dupuis takes a shot, gets his own rebound and tucks a shot around his body to Sullivan. Sully's rebound goes to Crosby on the post, who sneaks one through Miller's five-hole for the goal! PENS 2, SABRES 1
8:19: Welcome back, Johnny! Leino appears to have a slam dunk opportunity on the backdoor, but Johnson slides over and stretches the pad just far enough to keep the puck out!!!
9:27: Pens string together another nice entry into the Sabres zone. Dupuis sauces a pass all the way to the other side of the ice to a breaking Crosby, who backhands a pass to Sullivan. Dupuis gets the puck back and lets one rip from the circle that catches Tyler Myers up high. He is down for a few moments, but stays on the bench and appears to be OK.
10:08: We've already had a couple scrums around each team's net after the whistle. This one absolutely has a playoff feel to it. Lots of desperation.
11:41: Kennedy wires a cross-ice pass to Michalek at the point, who has the time and space to wind up and blast a slap shot at the cage. There's a juicy rebound and the Pens nearly stuff it in, but Miller is able to cover.
13:25: A scrum in front of the Pens net results in a Sabres goal. Ville Leino gets in front of Johnny as he's trying to handle a bouncing puck, allowing Jordan Leopold to corral it and flip it in. PENS 1, SABRES 1
|"Evgeni Malkin bunted the puck into the net? Now THAT'S a guy who knows how to win! #Pens"
|"What a great play by Sullivan to get that back in the zone. Hey! It's a power play goal! #Pens"
16:10: Sullivan calmly enters the zone and slides a pass over to Malkin. He drives to the net and his initial shot is saved by Miller, but Geno whacks in his own rebound out of midair into the net! That's Malkin's 48th goal of the season, establishing a new career high for the Pens center! PENS 1, SABRES 0
16:50: Vitale draws a penalty just outside his own zone when he gets tripped up from behind by Drew Stafford. Pens with an early PP opportunity! They're sticking with the five-forward unit: Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Sullivan.
18:11: Some pretty passing between the members of the Staal line to enter the Sabres zone that cumulates with a quick snapshot from Kennedy that Miller turns aside. Pens testing the Buffalo netminder early. That's good.
|"Let's go Brent Johnson! #pens"
20:00: Puck drops to start the first. Game on!
Matt Niskanen isn't the only player making his return to the lineup tonight. Joe Vitale is also back in after missing 7 games with an upper-body injury.
Jeffrey, Park, Tangradi, Despres, Letang and Lovejoy are the scratches.
Bylsma has opted to juggle his lines again today. Kunitz is back with Malkin and Neal while Sullivan is on Crosby's left wing and Dupuis is on his right. Here are the combos...
Johnson in goal.
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…
On when he realized Niskanen would be able to go:
His practice the day we left Pittsburgh was significantly better and pain-free in a lot of areas. That’s why he came on the trip. Getting through yesterday’s practice, he tolerated a lot of physical activity and confrontations on the ice. That made him available for today.
On if they’ll temper Niskanen's minutes and workload:
I don’t think it’s a real concern. I think just in this situation, pairing-up wise, he won’t be totally right back in a normal workload. But we’ll still see him and lean on him a fair amount tonight.
We saw them early on in the season in the first 10 games, which they played very well. And they played very well against us the first time we saw them. Then we saw them about a month ago and they played very well against us here. Whatever happened in between there, I don’t know a lot about. I know what those two games were. They’re a skilled team, a fast team. They come at you with their defensemen as well and with good goaltending. That’s what we’ve seen from them. I know in between (our first and our last meeting with them), they’re not where they wanted to be and had some injuries and different situations. The last month and a half, they’ve really played really well – one of the best teams in the league. That’s what we’re expecting tonight.
On if teams like the Sabres are cause for concern in the playoffs:
I think especially for the teams that are fighting for a considerable amount of time to get in, which Buffalo is in that situation now – if they get in, they’re going to be a team that is playing very, very well. As well as anybody else. So to get that matchup with them in the playoffs, those are types of situations you’ve seen teams do really well at and continue to win and move on and advance. Every year, you see one or two teams that are fighting for playoff spots that are playing really well get in and be dangerous teams. Buffalo is right in that group that has been playing as well as anybody in the league right now.
On his team playing as well as Buffalo:
Our record since Jan. 6 has been very, very good. We’ve won a lot of hockey games. Right now, we’ve had a little hiccup and some wounds after losing two in a row. It’s certainly a situation we want to remedy. We have some great teams playing some great hockey here starting tonight against Buffalo, then with Philly, Boston and the Rangers. We have some big games coming up with playoff teams and teams that are playing very well right now. Buffalo will be that test tonight.
On if Crosby is OK after taking the puck to the face Thursday night:
His class picture won’t look that good. But he’s fine.
On what goes through his mind seeing Crosby sustain such an injury:
I would feel a concern for any player that basically took a wrist shot directed up at his head. I think his visor got a piece of it, so that was fortunate. But any player on any team – you see a guy take a puck straight to the face, you’re concerned for the person. You think about what their exterior’s going to look like. But you also worry about that type of play to the head.
On if Johnson will start and if they’ll do anything differently with him in:
Brent is starting tonight. It’s a situation where we want to get Brent some game action before the playoffs start. Depending on the situation, this game for sure and possibly one more.
Happy Friday everyone! The Pens are in Buffalo preparing to battle the Sabres at First Niagara Center and conclude the season series between the two teams. Pittsburgh is looking to end its two-game losing streak tonight, and it'll be a tough task against a red-hot Sabres squad that's fighting for their playoff lives.
But first, head coach Dan Bylsma addressed the media prior to the game and had a few lineup updates. Defenseman Matt Niskanen, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup. And goaltender Brent Johnson will be starting in net – his first game action since Feb. 19 (which was also the last time the Pens were in Buffalo).