After bouncing back from their first loss in November, the Penguins visit Buffalo for the first time this season Friday.
Trailing the New York Islanders by three goals in the third period Wednesday and facing their first back-to-back losses since the end of last month, the Penguins (13-5-3) rallied with three goals in a 5:35 span. Sidney Crosby scored the first goal and set up the next two by Evgeni Malkin, who scored into an empty net with 18 seconds left to complete a natural hat trick.
“It was crazy, but it was a fun game,” said Crosby, who was put on the same line as Malkin by coach Michel Therrien midway through the second period. “We seemed to capitalize on every chance in that period. We don’t look to quit. A lot of leads are tough to hold. It’s happened to us a few times.”
More often, Pittsburgh causes its opponent to blow the lead. The Pens have an NHL-best 10th come-from-behind wins, and the latest one improved them to 8-1-1 this month. Pittsburgh hasn’t lost two in a row since Oct. 28 and 30.
Malkin, the NHL leader with 35 points, had a goal and three assists in Pittsburgh’s last meeting with Buffalo, a 5-2 victory Nov. 15. He has a goal in three straight meetings with the Sabres, recording seven points during that span.
Crosby had an assist in that Nov. 15 game and has four assists in the past three meetings, but he hasn’t scored in his last four games versus the Sabres.
Penguins No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury sat out a fourth straight game Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. Dany Sabourin, who has started all three games during Fleury’s absence, was pulled in the second period after giving up three goals on 11 shots. John Curry came on and earned the victory in his first NHL game, making 11 saves.
Buffalo (10-8-3) started November with a pair of wins but is 2-6-1 since. The Sabres broke a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over Boston on Wednesday.
“We were desperate for a win, and when you’re desperate guys are making plays, blocking shots, and not being too fancy,” said center Derek Roy, who scored twice Wednesday and has four goals in the last three games. “Everyone was on the same page, and played hard.”
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller apparently has returned to form, giving up two goals in each of his last two starts. Miller opened the season 7-1-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average but stumbled through his next five starts, giving up 22 goals.
Miller has struggled against Pittsburgh, dropping his last five starts. He’s 2-5-2 with a 2.77 goals-against average in nine career starts versus the Penguins.
Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek is among the NHL leaders with 15 goals, but hasn’t scored in the past three games. He has four goals in 13 games against the Penguins.
Pittsburgh has won five straight over the Sabres and three in a row at HSBC Arena.