Penguins turn around and play Sabres again

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night in a 4-0 win. They’ll look for a similar result after they return home for the second half of a home-and-home series against the Sabres on Saturday night.

The Penguins jumped out to an early lead against the Sabres on Friday and didn’t look back in a comfortable and composed victory. Sidney Crosby, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist scored for Pittsburgh, who time and again picked apart the Sabres’ defensive deficiencies.

“I thought it was pretty solid,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of the win. “When you get up a few goals like that early, those games can be challenging. We talked about in between periods just making sure that we don’t exhale, that we continue to try and work to get the next goal and play hard and play the right way, and for the most part I think we did a good job.”

It was the best possible way for the Penguins (14-10-3) to get things started with youngster Tristan Jarry between the pipes. Jarry is in net after starter Matthew Murray suffered a lower-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. Murray is considered week to week.

“He earned it,” Crosby said of Jarry. “It was a great game by him, made some big saves all the way through it. They had some hard-play opportunities too where they threw a lot of pucks at the net and had some screens and stuff like that so he had to battle through some traffic and they have some guys that can make plays and they did tonight and he made some big saves for us.”

The Penguins have won three in a row and appear to be getting hot at the right time. Crosby has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last five games and the Penguins have a five-game home stretch on deck starting Saturday against Buffalo.

“That’s a key point,” Crosby said. “You look at the schedule early on, we knew it was going to be tough. We were going to be tested and we probably weren’t that happy with some of the games and how they went, some of the lopsided scores and how we played.

“But I think that given the position we’re in now to be at home and trying to build off the way we’ve been playing the last few games, it’s a great opportunity for us. But we’ve got to do something with it. We can’t exhale now that we’re home, we’ve got to continue to build.”

Things continue to fall apart for the Sabres (6-16-4), who have lost 10 of their past 11 games and have been shut out in three consecutive games.

The Sabres are struggling in all areas of the ice under first-year coach Phil Housley and haven’t found many positives as of late.

“There’s a group of guys in that room that have to make a choice to turn it around,” Housley said. “It’s not going to be easy. This is probably going to be one of the mentally tough things they’re going to have to deal with in their careers.

“Hopefully, we’ll look back at this stretch and we can learn from it. But right now we’re in the thick of it and there’s no easy way out.”