PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – After two discouraging losses to the New York Islanders this week, the Pittsburgh Penguins got back in the win column Friday night.
Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists to lead the Penguins to a 5-3 win against the surging Buffalo Sabres.
It did not take long for the Penguins to get on the board.
While on the power play, Evgeni Malkin picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and fired a quick shot on goal. Ryan Miller made the save, but Malkin batted the rebound out of the air and into the net for his 48th goal of the season.
The goal also established a new career-high for Malkin, whose previous high of 47 goals came during the 2007-08 season.
However, the lead would not last long as Jordan Leopold banged a rebound home after Brent Johnson bobbled a shot into his chest at 6:35 of the first period.
Both goaltenders allowed soft goals in the first period and Crosby was the beneficiary of one of those goals later in the period.
Standing at the side of the net, Crosby’s close-range shot somehow found its way through Miller, who was in position, to put Pittsburgh back on top 2-1.
About three minutes later, Tyler Ennis rushed into the Penguins’ zone and threw a wrist shot on net that Johnson simply missed, which evened the score 2-2.
In the second period, the Penguins struck again on the power play and Crosby reached a career milestone.
Malkin weaved his way into the zone and fed Crosby along the near wall. Crosby fired a pinpoint pass through sticks and bodies to James Neal on the backdoor to put Pittsburgh up 3-2.
The assist gave Crosby his 600th career point and he is the seventh fastest player to reach that mark in NHL history.
About four minutes later, Steve Sullivan beat Miller to a loose puck in the slot and chipped it behind him to put the Penguins up 4-2.
Thomas Vanek would pull the Sabres within one after a crazy bounce off a glass partition at 16:59 of the second period.
After winning a defensive zone faceoff, a clearing attempt ricocheted off of a partition, right to Vanek who deked around Johnson for his 26th goal of the season.
The pace of the game ramped up in the third period, but Johnson came up with several timely saves down the stretch to preserve the lead.
Jordan Staal added an empty net goal with six seconds remaining to seal the deal.
Johnson made 25 saves in his first start since being pulled against the Sabres during a 6-2 loss on Feb. 19.
Buffalo has been on an incredible streak lately that has seen them climb up the Eastern Conference standings to challenge for a playoff spot.
The Sabres and Capitals are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with 86 points, but the Capitals own the tie-breaker. Both clubs are training the seventh place Ottawa Senators by just two points.
The Penguins now hold a four-point edge over the Philadelphia Flyers and trail the New York Rangers by five points.
Speaking of the Flyers, the Penguins will play host to Philadelphia Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.
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