Buffalo is sad

NHL on NBC: Sad-sack Sabres host Pittsburgh

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Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.

Pity the Buffalo sports fan – so optimistic, then so disappointed.

The Bills start out 5-2, lose eight of their next nine, and finish 6-10.

The Sabres add millions upon millions to the payroll, and entering Sunday’s home game versus Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) have approximately the same odds of making the NHL playoffs as, well, the Bills do of making the NHL playoffs.

Happy Hockey Day in America, Buffalo!

The Sabres enter Sunday’s game coming off their fourth straight defeat, 4-3 in a shootout to Montreal on Friday at the First Niagara Center. The loss dropped Buffalo into a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference, leaving coach Lindy Ruff to state the obvious.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed, embarrassed,” Ruff said. “We’ve dealt with a lot, but to be where we’re at is a big disappointment.”

The Penguins have dealt with a lot this season as well – specifically the absence of captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) for all but eight games, plus the extended absences due to injury of forward Jordan Staal and defenseman Kris Letang.

However, unlike Buffalo, Pittsburgh will almost certainly be making the playoffs.

The Penguins earned a big win over in-state rival Philadelphia on Saturday, defeating the Flyers 6-4. It was an odd affair, highlighted by a pair of shorthanded goals scored less than two minutes apart — Jordan Staal scored 4-on-5, Matt Cooke scored 3-on-5 — with the guy that put Pittsburgh shorthanded, Pascal Dupuis, realizing how big a victory it was.

“That’s huge,” Dupuis said. “[The Flyers] were ahead of us in the standings, and you want to catch teams, especially down the stretch like that. It was a big win for us.”

The Penguins will look for a second consecutive win Sunday against a Buffalo team they’ve enjoyed success against this season. Pittsburgh embarrassed Buffalo the last time out by an 8-3 score, highlighted by a five-point effort from Evgeni Malkin, who also notched a hat-trick. That outing was especially tough for both Sabres netminders — Ryan Miller allowed five goals on 15 shots and backup Jhonas Enroth didn’t fare much better, allowing three goals on 11.

Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: