Home Pittsburgh Sports College Basketball Pens fall to Sabres 3-2

Pens fall to Sabres 3-2

Nathan Gerbe and Luke Adam each had a goal and an assist and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Penguins for the first time in almost two years, 3-2 on Saturday night. James Neal scored for the third consecutive game, extending his NHL-leading goal total to five.

Another late goal, another close game and another disappointing finish for the Pens, who had their first regulation loss Saturday night to the new-look Buffalo Sabres, a team playing it’s second game in as many nights.

“(There were) definitely a lot of opportunities both ways and we gave them a little too many,” Penguins center Jordan Staal said after the game. “And we obviously didn’t bury our chances enough.”

James Neal’s hot streak continued, as he scored his fifth goal in six games, but it was not enough for Buffalo’s attack, and it didn’t make up for sloppy execution on the part of the Penguins, who were without Evgeni Malkin.

“It’s a disappointing outcome because we were so prepared,” Neal said. “We knew exactly the way the game was going to be laid out.”

Penguins’ Head Coach Dan Bylsma and some of his players were asked if fatigue had anything to do with their execution and the game’s outcome, considering the Pens brutal October schedule. They all agreed that was not the case.

“I don’t think that’s a problem, because we do feel good,” Neal said. “It’s just executing our systems and executing on our passes – sometimes were a little sloppy there…We just need to fix up a few little areas like that.”

The Sabres got on the board first when Nathan Gerbe picked up Luke Adam’s rebound and sent a quick backhand shot past Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was drawn out of the net. Kris Letang slid across the crease in an attempt to keep the score tied at zero, but he went into the net along with the puck at 9:24 of the first.

After intercepting Pittsburgh’s clearing attempt, Jason Pominville was able to set up Buffalo’s second goal less than five minutes later. Pominville sent a pass to Thomas Vanek, who dished the puck across the slot to Adam. Adam put a snap shot past Fleury at 14:05 of the first period.

Neal scored to cut the Sabres’ lead in half by throwing a seemingly harmless, bad-angle shot at Jhonas Enroth 2:11 into the second period. After Steve Sullivan’s work to gain possession along the end-boards, Richard Park was able to control the puck and send it to Neal at the left-side boards. The puck took a lucky bounce off of Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regher’s stick and into the net.

“He’s hot right now,” Staal said of Neal. “It seems like he’s shooting a small bucket of pucks every game.”

With some help from the goal post, Fleury kept his team within striking distance after Pascal Dupuis took a tripping penalty with less than four minutes remaining in the second frame. Fleury made two particularly impressive saves on Adam, allowing the Pens to go into the third with still only a one-goal deficit.

The Penguins relinquished any momentum gained by a strong second period, though, when the Sabres scored off the rush 8:06 into the third period to regain a two-goal lead. Breaking into the Penguins zone and towards Fleury, Gerbe sent a drop pass to Drew Stafford in the right circle. Stafford sent a wrist shot past Fleury for his third goal of the season.

The Penguins continued to push for a goal and broke through when Jordan Staal corralled the loose puck that Tyler Kennedy had shoveled towards the net. Staal backhanded a shot past Enroth at 15:09.

The Pens got their best chance to tie the game late when Buffalo took a delaying game penalty with 22 seconds to play, giving Pittsburgh a 6-on-4 advantage with Fleury pulled. The home team failed to convert, however.

Pittsburgh next plays Monday at Winnipeg. The game starts at 8:30 p.m.

Three Stars:
1.  Luke Adam
2.  Nathan Gerbe
3.  James Neal

PIT: James Neal (5), Jordan Staal (2); BUF: Nathan Gerbe (1), Luke Adam (3), Drew Stafford (?)
Assists: PIT: Richard Park, Tyler Kennedy, Paul Martin; BUF: Luke Adam, Christian Ehrhoff (2), Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Nathan Gerbe

PIT: Marc-Andre Fleury (L)   25-28
BUF: Jhonas Enroth (W)         30-32

PIT: 0-2
BUF: 0-1

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