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.
Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.
Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.
On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.
As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.
Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages
For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.
He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.
(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)
Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.
The Boston Bruins are back from their bye week, looking to continue a three-game winning streak since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach from Claude Julien.
The Bruins can extend their streak Sunday, when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. ET). You can check out the game on NBCSN or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress
Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?
Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions
Jacob Trouba could be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone.
The incident occurred during the third period of Sunday’s game, as Stone was passing the puck after he entered the zone. Trouba stepped up and delivered a high hit, resulting in only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Stone, who dealt with a concussion that was reported in September, remained down on the ice before eventually going to the dressing room.
As you can see from the video, Senators coach Guy Boucher was furious officials on the ice decided this was only worth a minor for Trouba.