Sabres 4, Penguins 3
From spectator to contributor, Sabres forward Drew Stafford
quickly put his benching behind him with an impressive
Two days after he was banished to watch in the press box as a
healthy scratch, Stafford rebounded by scoring twice, including
once on a penalty shot, and added an assist to help Buffalo
overcome a three-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh
Penguins on Tuesday night.
“It comes back to how you respond,” said Stafford, who sat out
a 5-3 win at St. Louis on Sunday. “It’s being professional about
it, not feeling sorry for yourself. It’s just going back to work. I
was very fortunate enough to get some breaks tonight, and it just
so happened to be the night after I got sat out. I’ll take
So will the Sabres in a game they looked like they had no
business being in after starter Ryan Miller was pulled 22 minutes
in, when he allowed his third goal on 11 shots. Patrick Lalime took
over and stopped all 27 shots he faced, and Jason Pominville capped
the comeback by scoring a power-play goal with 9:05 left.
“We played well, we came back strong. Good character win,”
said Lalime, who was particularly strong in making 18 saves in the
second period. “It’s huge. We never let down.”
Paul Gaustad also scored for the Sabres, who hadn’t overcome a
three-goal deficit since a 5-4 shootout win at Dallas last Jan.
Jordan Staal, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz scored for the
Penguins, who squandered a three-goal lead for the first time since
a 5-3 loss at Nashville last Jan. 8.
“A three-goal lead and we didn’t put it away. That’s what
happens when you let teams hang around,” Penguins captain Sidney
Crosby said. “We worked pretty hard and probably deserved
The Penguins dropped to 1-3 in their past four games, and blew a
chance to move into a tie with New Jersey atop the Eastern
Conference standings. With 53 points, the Penguins are two back of
New Jersey as they travel to face their Atlantic Division rival on
Pittsburgh appeared to take command 90 seconds into the second
period when Kunitz, set up in the high slot by a smart pass from
Crosby, blasted a 50-footer over Miller’s left shoulder. The goal
chased Miller, in a week in which he is expected to be named to
U.S. Olympic team.
Guerin didn’t sense a change in how the Penguins played. He
instead chalked up the loss to how much better the Sabres were
during the final 30 minutes.
“I don’t think it was necessarily a momentum change,” Guerin
said. “They just started playing better.”
That boost came from Stafford, who started the rally by scoring
on a penalty shot with 7:14 left in the second period. The Sabres
were awarded the penalty shot following a scramble in front during
which Penguins defenseman Jay McKee illegally smothered the puck
while lying in the crease.
Driving in on net, Stafford made a head fake and then
acknowledged he fanned on a shot that still fooled Marc-Andre
Fleury and beat him through the legs.
“I just kind of sweeped at it and it went in,” said Stafford,
who snapped a 15-game goal drought.
He scored against 2:09 later by converting his own rebound, and
then made a nifty move to set up Gaustad’s goal to tie the game.
Avoiding two defenders, including Sergei Gonchar’s attempt at a hip
check, Stafford slipped a pass through the crease to Gaustad, who
tapped it in.
“He was our best player tonight, which was good,” Sabres coach
Lindy Ruff said of Stafford. “I think that’s the type of player he
Ruff, however, cautioned that he doesn’t want to make a habit of
benching players to get the best out of them.
“That’s a hard lesson,” Ruff said. “But I think his answer is
a quality response to a situation like that.”
NOTES: The Penguins, who kicked off a four-game road trip, had
their bus become stuck in the snow three blocks from the hotel on
Monday. Coaches and team officials had to get out to push. … With
462 career wins with the Sabres, coach Lindy Ruff moved to within
three of passing Glen Sather (Edmonton) for fourth place on the NHL
list of coaching wins with one team. … Penguins D Mark Eaton
returned after missing three games with a lower body injury.