After beating the Lightning and the Flyers, the Penguins wanted to add to their win streak.
They looked to keep that momentum going in Buffalo, who had lost nine of their last ten. Evgeni Malkin returned after missing four games with an upper body injury. Ian Cole also returned after being a healthy scratch the past three games.
The winning would continue, as the Penguins beat the Sabres, 4-0.
The game began with neither team dictating play, that was until Tom Kuhnhackl was interfered with on a breakaway. The referees awarded him with his career first penalty shot.
He didn’t waste the opportunity, beating Sabres’ goalie Robin Lehner high on his glove side to give the Pens a 1-0 lead three and a half minutes in.
This shifted all the momentum in Pittsburgh’s favor. A little over three minutes after Kuhnhackl’s goal, Sidney Crosby (unassisted) took advantage of a Sabres’ turnover to increase his team’s lead to 2-0.
Pens’ goalie Tristan Jarry had to make a couple of good saves to keep his team in the lead. With usual starter Matt Murray out week-to-week with a lower body injury, it looks as if he and Casey DeSmith will be in net for the foreseeable future.
The end of the first saw both teams trade chances at each end of the ice. Then Jake Guentzel (assisted by Malkin) wrapped it around the net and in to make it a 3-0 game with less than two minutes left in the period. He caught a great saucer pass by Malkin, and was able to make Lehner bite for the easy wrap-around.
The horn sounded with the Penguins sitting on a comfortable 3-0 lead going into the first intermission.
The second period started with the Pens controlling play, spending good amount of time in the offensive zone. Bryan Rust was called for holding, the first penalty of the night, but Pittsburgh was able to successfully kill it off. Later on, Matt Hunwick was penalized for delay of game but again the Sabres came up empty.
Jarry continued to stay sharp, using his size and range to challenge shooters.
Right after the Hunwick penalty, Marco Scandella was sent off for slashing to give Pittsburgh their first powerplay of the night. However, they were unable to capitalize.
The Sabres once again got another chance on the powerplay as Carl Hagelin was called for tripping. But the Pens’ penalty killers came through and kept the score at 3-0.
The end of the second period was much like the first, with another late Penguins goal. With 40 seconds left, Patric Hornqvist (assisted by Conor Sheary and Crosby) rocketed a shot from the slot past Lehner’s blocker to make it 4-0.
A minute into the third, it looked as if the Sabres would finally get their first goal. Kyle Criscuolo found his way behind the Penguins’ defense, but Jarry made a sprawling save to stop his backhand shot.
As the period went on, the Sabres could not get anything going. They were repeatedly called offsides and turned the puck over left and right, much to the disdain of the crowd (the ones that weren’t Penguins fans). They wasted yet another powerplay chance after Brian Dumoulin was called for holding with less than eight minutes left in the game.
Tensions started to boil over, as Evander Kane took a cheap shot at Rust. This resulted in quite the scrum along the side wall, with both men getting roughing penalties.
All the Penguins had to do was run the clock out, only registering two shots the whole third period.
Time ran out, and Jarry earned his first career NHL shutout as the Penguins won 4-0.
The Pens have been playing some great hockey the last three games, especially Jarry. I don’t think fans will have to worry about the goalie situation while Murray’s out. Congrats to him on his first NHL shutout, hopefully there will be more to come.
Malkin looked good coming back from injury. He made that great saucer pass to set up Guentzel’s goal and was flying all night. Him being back in the lineup might help the Pens score a few more five-on-five goals.
Also, congrats to Kuhnhackl on his first career penalty shot. The goal he scored from it was also his first of the season. Starting with Kuhnhackl, the Pens tortured Lehner on his glove side all night. Once you find a weakness, always exploit it.
The Penguins head home to PPG Paints Arena to face the Sabres again tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.