Sabres blow another third period lead
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary scored 50 seconds apart late in the third period to cap a furious rally by the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
The Sabres led by three after the first period, but Pittsburgh ramped up the pressure to win its second straight and move into sole possession of second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Justin Schultz added a goal and two assists. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 28 shots he faced after replacing Matt Murray to start the second period.
Jack Eichel scored to extend his points streak to an NHL-best 10 games. Ryan O'Reilly scored in his third straight game and Brian Gionta picked up his 14th of the season, but the Sabres crumpled late. Anders Nilsson finished with 41 saves, but the Sabres saw their flickering playoff hopes take another hit.
Less than 24 hours removed from a shootout loss at home to Tampa Bay, the Sabres hardly looked tired during the opening 20 minutes. Buffalo poured in three goals on Murray in the first period, all of them from close range. O'Reilly chipped one over Murray's shoulder 6:19 into the game, Gionta's power-play goal 14:53 into the first doubled the lead and Eichel rifled a loose puck by Murray's stick at 18:07 for an improbable 3-0 advantage.
The Penguins pulled Murray in favor of Fleury going into the second, though Murray was hardly to blame considering the wide open swaths of ice the Sabres skated through on the way to the Pittsburgh net.
The arrival of Fleury, playing for the first time since the team opted to hold on to the franchise's all-time leader in victories at the trade deadline, seemed to wake up his teammates. None more than Malkin.
The Russian star has been on a tear and kept it going during a barrage in the second period that fueled Pittsburgh's rally. He helped set up Justin Schultz's goal 7:45 into the second that gave the Penguins life and added his 29th of the season at 13:42 with a laser of a one-timer from the right circle, his NHL-leading 46th point at home.
The Sabres collected themselves in the third and appeared to have things in hand when Sheary and Guentzel struck. Guentzel reached back to redirect Sheary's shot from the point that slipped past Nilsson with 3:46 left in regulation to tie it.
Schultz then fired a cross-ice pass to Sheary, who sent the puck into a wide-open net with 2:56 to go for his first goal since missing a month with an upper-body injury.
NOTES: Pittsburgh D Mark Streit nearly scored his second goal in two games since joining the Penguins last week, but officials ruled his rolling shot in the first period didn't fully cross the goal line before being flipped away. ... Schultz's 11 goals tie a career high set with Edmonton in 2013-14. ... Penguins D Kris Letang missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury, and coach Mike Sullivan indicated Letang could be out longer than previously thought. ... Buffalo D Dmitry Kulikov was scratched after sustaining an upper-body injury on Saturday against Tampa Bay. ... The Sabres were 1 for 5 on the power play. Pittsburgh went 1 for 4.