PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — Evgeni Malkin was out of the lineup again Saturday night, and apparently he was sorely missed because for the first time this season the Penguins lost a game in regulation.
Although Malkin returned with a two-point effort Thursday against the Washington Capitals after missing two games, his surgically repaired right knee was sore again leaving the Pens without their star as the Buffalo Sabres visited the CONSOL Energy Center.
James Neal scored for the third consecutive game, extending his NHL-leading goal total to five for the Penguins (3-1-2), and Jordan Staal added a third-period goal but it wasn’t enough as Buffalo pulled out a 3-2 victory.
Nathan Gerbe, Luke Adam and Drew Stafford scored for the Sabres, while their backup goalie Jhonas Enroth made 29 saves.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves for the Penguins.
Gerbe gave Buffalo a lead it would never relinquish with his first of the season off a rebound of a shot by Adam in the first period.
Playing for the second consecutive day after taking six days off following their season-opening trip to Europe, the Sabres controlled play in the first period. Adam scored with 5:55 to play, his third, off a setup from Thomas Vanek following a turnover by Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
Neal made it 2-1 with his fourth in three home games this week 2:11 into the second.
He corralled a puck low along the left-wing boards and wristed it toward the net. The shot caromed off the stick of Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr, who was trying to sweep it out of danger, and found its way into the net just inside the far post.
Stafford’s third goal in three games came 8:06 into the third, a period Pittsburgh dominated. Gerbe and Christian Ehrhoff earned assists on the goal.
Staal’s second of the season with 4:51 left pulled the Penguins to 3-2, but Enroth made 13 saves in the period to give the Sabres the win.
The Penguins’ streak of earning at least a point in five straight games to open the season was their best in 17 years.
The Sabres ended a streak as well, beating the Penguins for the first time in almost two years. The Sabres’ previous win over the Penguins was on Dec. 29, 2009, in Buffalo.
Malkin tore his ACL when Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers hit him Feb. 4. The injury ended his season.
Up next, the Penguins hit the road, heading to Winnipeg to take on the Jets on Monday at 8:30 p.m.