For the third straight game, the Buffalo Sabres scored first. The only difference is, this time they didn’t cough up the lead.
Mere hours after signing James Neal to a six-year/$30 million contract extension, the Penguins quickly found themselves down 2-0 just 4:16 minutes into the first period of Sunday’s game. Paul Gaustad netted his seventh goal of the season at 2:52 of the second period to drive out Penguins starting goaltender Brent Johnson. However, Marc-Andre Fleury did not fare much better as Buffalo went onto win 6-2.
Derek Roy, who has been a big disappointment this season, came up big with two goals and an assist. Thomas Vanek managed to stay out of the sin bin a day after Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called him out for taking selfish penalties. Vanek also registered an assist and finished the game with a plus-three rating. Meanwhile, Christian Ehrhoff, who has been quiet offensively for the Sabres since missing most of January due to an upper body injury, recorded a season-high three assists.
On the Penguins’ side of thing, the newly signed Neal did register an assist on Jordan Staal’s power-play goal and was one of the few Pittsburgh players to finish the game with a neutral plus/minus rating. Evgeni Malkin also got an assist to give him a league-leading 71 points in 52 games.
Buffalo desperately needed this win as they are still seven points behind the eighth place Toronto Maple Leafs with just 23 games left to go. Pittsburgh’s situation isn’t nearly as dire, but this is a setback as they battle for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.