BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a second period save against Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 17, 2013 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Get your game notes: Penguins at Sabres

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This evening on NBCSN, it’s the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Tonight’s matchup features the No. 1 team in the East against the conference’s basement dweller. Pittsburgh has gone 24-6-1 since Nov. 27 and has led the conference since taking over the top spot on Dec. 14. The Sabres, meanwhile, fell to 1-9-1 back on Oct. 23 and have brought up the rear in the standings ever since. Pittsburgh has more than double Buffalo’s point total (80-38).

• The game also pits the conference’s highest-scoring team (Penguins, 3.11 GPG) against the league’s lowest- scorers (Sabres, 1.84 GPG). Five Penguins have higher point totals that Buffalo’s leading scorer, Matt Moulson (33 points this season, 24 with Sabres).

• In spite of the low numbers, the Sabres’ output has been on an uptick recently. Buffalo has scored 3 or more goals 8 times over the last 11 games – something they’d done 10 times over their first 45 games. In this most recent 11-game stretch, C Cody Hodgson has scored 6 goals and D Christian Ehrhoff 9 points, while captain Steve Ott has 4 goals in his last 8 games.

• The Penguins lead the NHL in both power plays (24.9%) and penalty kill (87.7%). No team has finished a season atop the league in both categories since the 1984-85 Islanders.

• Sidney Crosby has registered at least 1 point in 16 consecutive games against the Sabres, the longest active streak for any player against an NHL team. Crosby has 9 goals and 17 assists during the streak; he also has points in all 13 career games he has played in Buffalo. (Elias Sports Bureau)

Player | Opponent | Streak

Sidney Crosby, PIT Sabres 16

Steven Stamkos, TB WPG/ATL 13

Patrick Kane, CHI Oilers 12

Joe Thornton, SJ Avalanche 12

• Crosby, however, has been held without a point in each of the last two games. It has been more than 4 years since the Pittsburgh captain went 3 straight games without a point, since he had a 5-game drought from Oct. 31-Nov. 10, 2009. Crosby hasn’t scored a goal in 5 games and shares the team lead (27) with Chris Kunitz.

• Buffalo’s Ryan Miller (.925 save %, T-6th in NHL) will have one final “audition” tonight before coach Dan Bylsma, who will run the American bench in Sochi beginning next week. Since Bylsma took over in Pittsburgh during the 2008-09 season, Miller is 4-5-0 with a 3.65 GAA and .883 save% against his Pens.

• James Neal’s overtime winner vs. Ottawa on Monday was his 18th goal and first in 9 games. Despite the dry spell, Neal remains among the league leaders in goals per game. (min. 20 games)

 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals 0.75

 Alex Steen, Blues 0.61

 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs 0.52

 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes 0.52

 James Neal, Penguins 0.51

 Joe Pavelski, Sharks 0.51

 • The last NHL games before the Olympic break will be played on Saturday, Feb. 8. The NHL’s Olympic roster freeze takes effect Friday and runs until Feb. 23, before the schedule resumes with Buffalo hosting Carolina on Feb. 25.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.