Buffalo Sabres defeat Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in OT
The Buffalo Sabres spoiled Michel Therrien’s debut as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins by beating the Pens in overtime by the score of 4-3. Pittsburgh played inspired hockey throughout the game but couldn’t put an end to the eleven game win streak that Sabres goaltender Martin Biron brought into the game. The first period was more noteworthy for the number of penalties called than anything else. A total of seven minor penalties were assessed during the first period with five going to Pittsburgh. Buffalo’s power play unit could not capitalize on their chances in the first period but they would make up for it later in the game. The period ended tied at 0-0. Scoring picked up in the second period when the teams combined for five goals. Buffalo got the scoring started on the power play with a goal by Danny Briere just 1:26 into the period. Buffalo had started the period with a 5 on 3 advantage but the first penalty expired with no goal. While Pittsburgh was still down by one man Briere got the puck down low and fought his way through three Penguin defenders and slipped the puck just inside the post to Fleury’s stick side. Pittsburgh tied the game at 1 just two minutes later with a power play goal by Michel Ouellet – his first NHL goal. Biron stopped the first shot by Recchi but left the rebound in the crease where Ouellet was waiting to fire it home. Jochen Hecht put the Sabres back in the lead 2-1 with a goal at the 8:05 mark. After a scrum in front of the Pittsburgh net the puck ended up back at the point on Jay McKee’s stick. McKee found Hecht at the top of the right face off circle and passed him the puck. Hecht used a Penguin defender as a screen and fired the puck past Fleury. The Penguins battled back and tied the game at 2 on a power play goal at the 17:11 mark. Ryan Malone was all alone to Biron’s left and scored through the open five-hole. It was a bad goal by Biron who wasn’t screened and had time to get square to the shooter. He just didn’t get his pads together in time. The power play goals continued when Ales Kotalik put the Sabres ahead 3-2 with under a minute left in the second period. Brian Campbell faked a slap shot from the left point and instead fired a pass across the ice to Kotalik who was down low in the zone. Kotalik roofed it into the net over a sprawling Fleury. After more than 17 minutes of chippy play in the third period that was filled with hits and cheap shots from both sides, Pittsburgh tied the game at 3 on a controversial goal by Ziggy Palffy. Sidney Crosby found Palffy alone on the goal line with the entire net to shoot at. Biron stretched out his glove hand and snagged the puck as it went across the goal line. The refs signaled no goal but went upstairs to review it. The camera angles that the Buffalo broadcast had proved inconclusive but after at least five minutes or more the goal was awarded by the video replay officials. Unless they had other camera angles to view that were more conclusive it was a bad call. The third period ended tied at 3-3. Buffalo had a chance to end the game early in the OT session when Briere broke in on Fleury. Briere was being checked from behind and just as he went to shoot the puck it flipped up on end and ended up going high over the net. Shortly after that missed shot Josef Melichar was called for hooking and Buffalo’s potent power play got an opportunity to earn the “W”. The Sabres would only need 31 seconds on the power play. With a 4 on 3 man advantage Briere got the puck at the left point and fired a high slap shot on net that Fleury knocked down. Chris Drury battled for the rebound while getting knocked down to his knees and poked the puck over the goal line to give the Sabres the win, 4-3. This was a hard fought game by both teams that could have gone either way. With 27 shots on net by both teams neither goalie had to work too hard yet they both made some spectacular saves. The game did get chippy in the second and third periods and that will probably spill over into the second part of the home-and-home series between the two teams tomorrow night in Buffalo. That game will begin at 5:00 PM so the teams only have 19 hours between the end of the first game and the start of the second game. Both teams have to fly into Buffalo tonight where they could face weather delays getting to their homes or hotel. All of this should factor into the game. The big question heading into tomorrow’s game will be whether or not Marty Biron can extend his 12 game winning streak to 13 games. Stay tuned to find out.