Malkin, Zatkoff lift Penguins over Sabres 4-3
PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Penguins may be starting to find their stride.
Evgeni Malkin scored his fourth of the season on the power play, Jeff Zatkoff made 50 saves in his season debut and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Thursday night.
”We know we have the guys that can score, but you’re not going to win just on talent,” Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis said. ”You have to grind games and win them the hard way. It’s what we’re learning to do early in the year.”
Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist and Ben Lovejoy all scored their first of the season and Malkin added an assist. Pittsburgh beat Washington on Wednesday night and has won three straight, six of its past seven and seven straight over Buffalo. Malkin has four goals and nine points in his last seven games.
Sidney Crosby had two assists, his first points in three games. Crosby is off to the worst start of his career and went without a point in eight of the team’s first nine games.
Dupuis’ goal was his first since last November after he missed most of 2014 with career-threatening blood clots.
”When you come back, you want to be an impact player and want to get back to your old ways,” Dupuis said. ”It’s taking a while, but it’s slowly getting there.”
The same can be said for the Penguins’ power play. The unit is statistically the worst in the league despite a number of world-class players, including Crosby and Malkin. It scored its third of the season in 32 chances, breaking an 0-for-11 slump.
That helped support Zatkoff, who got the call after Marc-Andre Fleury started the first nine games for Pittsburgh. He turned aside 41 shots in the final two periods, including 23 in the third.
”We knew they were going to throw everything at us,” Zatkoff said. ”They put a good push on, but thankfully we had a two-goal cushion.”
The Penguins were able to hold the cushion thanks in part to Phil Kessel. The winger saved a goal early in the third period when he fished a puck off the goal line and out of harm’s way during a net-mouth scramble to keep the Penguins ahead by two.
Jamie McGinn, Nicolas Deslauriers and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo.
The Sabres have yet to win back-to-back games this season but had a chance to Thursday after beating Philadelphia on Tuesday. Buffalo has dropped five of its last seven.
Chad Johnson made 25 saves for the Sabres.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma returned to Pittsburgh after winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.
Bylsma won 252 games and earned 43 playoff wins, both franchise records, in addition to a Jack Adams award for most outstanding coach in the league before he was fired after the 2014 season.
Buffalo finished with the worst record last season and hired Bylsma to turn around the franchise and aid rookie Jack Eichel’s development the way he helped Crosby. The Penguins welcomed him back with a video tribute in the first period and the fans responded with a standing ovation.
Crosby got his assists as Pittsburgh scored twice in the first 7:16 to open the scoring.
NOTES: Pittsburgh won for the ninth time in 11 games against Buffalo. … Crosby has at least a point in 26 of 29 games against Buffalo. … Zatkoff got his first NHL start since April 13, 2014. … Buffalo returns home Friday against Philadelphia. Pittsburgh begins a four-game road trip Saturday at Toronto. The Penguins won’t play at home again until Nov. 11 against Montreal. … Sabres F Tyler Ennis missed this game with a lower-body injury. D Carlo Colaiacovo also sat for Buffalo. … Pittsburgh scratched D Adam Clendening and F Sergei Plotnikov.