Sabres 4, Penguins 3, OT
Buffalo’s Chris Drury scored on a rebound in overtime and Biron became the first NHL goalie in eight years to win 12 consecutive starts, helping the Sabres ruin Michel Therrien’s debut as the Penguins’ coach with a 4-3 victory Friday night.
Drury and Ales Kotalik each had a power-play goal and two assists as the Sabres won their fifth in a row and 13th in 15 games (13-1-1), even while allowing Ziggy Palffy’s tying goal with 2:17 left in regulation.
Biron stopped 24 shots, a relatively low number given Pittsburgh’s seven power plays. The Sabres’ eighth consecutive road win is two short of the club record 10 in 1983-84 that set an NHL record and has been matched twice.
Biron’s streak is the NHL’s longest since New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur won 12 in a row in 1997-98.
The Penguins came at Biron quickly at the start and had an early 7-2 edge in shots, but couldn’t sustain the momentum—even with 18-year-old rookie Crosby wearing the A as an alternate captain for the first time.
“We knew with the new coach, and new guys back in the lineup, they were going to be extremely energetic right off the bat,” Biron said. “I played against Michel Therrien when he was with Montreal, and I knew he would get them fired up. We had to weather the storm a little bit, and after that we took control.”
Penguins defenseman Josef Melichar was late off the bench on a line change and was called for hooking Teppo Numminen 1:01 into overtime, and the Sabres scored the winning goal 36 seconds later. Drury grabbed Daniel Briere’s rebound in the left circle and put a no-look backhander on net that kicked off goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads and trickled across the goal line for Drury’s 10th goal.
“The rebound was there, and I just kind of tried to whack it and it found a hole and crossed the line,” Drury said.
Even with a new coach and a new defense-first system, the Penguins lost their ninth in 10 games and their 24th in 32 games, counting overtime. Therrien partly blamed their conditioning, a clear indictment of player-friendly former coach Eddie Olczyk.
“Conditioning wise, we are behind and until this team is in good shape, I think they will have to play a lot better, said Therrien, who intends to use five consecutive days off for a mini training camp next week. “When we are in good shape we will play better and make better decisions.”
The Penguins, 0-14-5 when trailing after two periods, got Palffy’s tying goal only after a video replay. Palffy kicked Crosby’s pass to his stick and pushed the puck toward the net, but the red light did not go on as Biron gloved it while sprawling across the goal line.
Palffy was given the goal after two TV replays appeared to show Biron catching the puck beyond the goal line.
Palffy returned after missing four games and most of a fifth with a sore groin, and was immediately put by Therrien on the top line with Crosby and Mario Lemieux, who also returned after sitting out four games with an irregular heartbeat that hospitalized him briefly.
Lemieux nearly scored in the first minute on a breakaway—in what would have been the perfect start to former Canadiens coach Therrien’s career in Pittsburgh—but Biron made the save.
Kotalik had put Buffalo up 3-2 late in the second in a game in which all but two goals, by Palffy and Buffalo’s Jochen Hecht—came on the power play.
Buffalo was 3-of-8 and Pittsburgh 2-of-7 on the power play as the Penguins couldn’t generate much offense except with the man advantage, even while playing with more intensity and a greater attention to detail. The Penguins scored only one goal combined in their final three losses under Olczyk.
“We took some bad penalties,” Therrien said. “Endicott took some bad penalties, some really bad penalties.”
Pittsburgh’s first goal, fittingly, was rookie Michel Ouellet’s first in the NHL, as he batted in the puck as it bounced across the crease early in the second period. Ouellet was called up from Wilkes-Barre (AHL) on Thursday, another move requested by Therrien immediately after he was promoted from the Penguins’ top farm club.
The Sabres are 6-1 in overtime and the Penguins are 3-7. … The Sabres are 3-0 against the Penguins, with the teams meeting again Saturday afternoon in Buffalo. All the victories are by one goal. … Drury has seven goals and eight assists during Buffalo’s 13-1-1 stretch.