Sabres 4, Penguins 3
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Martin Biron is on a roll, and his teammates don’t want it to end.
Biron made 30 saves in winning his 13th straight start and the Buffalo Sabres withstood Pittsburgh’s late rally to beat the Penguins 4-3 Saturday night.
“It’s definitely about team,” said Biron, who became the first NHL goalie in nearly a decade to win 13 consecutive starts. His streak is the NHL’s longest since Detroit’s Chris Osgood won the same number in the 1995-96 season.
“If the guys don’t get that fourth goal, then we’re not where we are right now,” Biron said. “We’ve had a lot of one-goal games.”
Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who have won six straight and 10 of 11—the only loss coming against San Jose on Dec. 2. They are 14-1-1 since a Nov. 12 home loss against Ottawa, and they’ve been nearly unbeatable in close encounters. Buffalo has won its last eight one-goal games.
“I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to blow anybody out of the water, but I think we can hang tough with the best of them,” coach Lindy Ruff said.
It was 10th loss in 11 games for the Penguins, whose 8-18-7 record is the worst in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo swept the home-and-home series that started Friday night in Pittsburgh with a 4-3 overtime victory.
The Penguins played without owner-captain Mario Lemieux, who had a recurrence of his irregular heartbeat and stayed home.
Lemieux played Friday after sitting out four games with the same problem. His absence was felt, but it wasn’t being used as an alibi.
“We’d like to have Mario here helping, but we can’t sit here and find excuses,” said goalie Jocelyn Thibault, who didn’t allow an even-strength goal after getting beat twice in the first 6:46 by Adam Mair and Afinogenov. “There’s enough talent here to win games. They came out harder than us. We should have been a desperate team. We should have been the team that wanted to win badly.”
And that infuriated Penguins coach Michel Therrien, who lost his second straight game to the Sabres since taking over for Ed Olczyk on Thursday. The Penguins were whistled for five penalties in the first period, and the Sabres twice held two-goal leads.
“It’s unacceptable to start a game like that on our heels,” Therrien said. “That’s not being professional to show up like that early in the game. For the rest of the game we were OK, but were behind the 8-ball. The guys need to become warriors, it’s pretty simple, guys that will go in there and battle and battle and battle. That’s all I’m asking.
“They know how I feel,” Therrien said. “It’s got to stop. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and over, there’s going to be a consequence. I have a feel for who’s the warrior, who wants to win. I’ve got a pretty good idea right now.”
“He (Therrien) just told us what we have to do, that we have a lot more to give than that,” said rookie star Sidney Crosby, who scored Pittsburgh’s first goal midway through the first.
Jason Pominville gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead with a power-play score with less than two minutes left in the first period and Chris Drury scored the lone goal of the second period, also on a power play. Drury also scored in overtime on Friday to beat the Penguins.
Pittsburgh rallied in the third when the Sabres went into a shell. Michel Ouellet, called up from Wilkes-Barre of the AHL on Thursday, scored his second just 24 seconds in, and Tomas Surovy pulled the Pens within a goal at 9:43. Surovy outfought Teppo Numminen and Brian Campbell in front and beat Biron with a backhander for his first goal.
The Penguins nearly tied it in the final minute. With Thibault off for an extra attacker, Biron stopped Surovy from point-blank range with 29.6 seconds remaining. Surovy took a cross-ice feed from Ryan Whitney, and Biron smothered the puck at the goal line.
It was eerily similar to a goal by Pittsburgh’s Ziggy Palffy that sent Friday night’s game into overtime. Biron appeared to make a glove save but after a lengthy review a goal was signaled.
“I threw my hand up that way and I was fortunate that it stayed above the line. Just a six-inch arm adjustment,” Biron said with a grin.
Pittsburgh’s Mark Recchi injured a groin and did not play in the third period. … Buffalo, which set the NHL record for consecutive road wins with 10 in 1983-84, will travel to Philadelphia on Monday in search of a ninth straight road victory. … Despite a Buffalo Bills football game down the road, the Sabres had their third sellout of the season.