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Malkin's five-point night leads Penguins to 8-3 win over Sabres

Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 12:45 AM ET / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow  - (@kwsnow)
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PITTSBURGH – After using a four-goal period to propel them to victory over Toronto on Friday, the Buffalo Sabres had the tables turned on them less than 24 hours later in the Steel City. The Pittsburgh Penguins scored four times in the first period, including a pair by Evgeni Malkin, and cruised to an easy 8-3 win over Buffalo at the Consol Energy Center. Malkin completed his hat trick in the third, and chipped in two assists in a dominating performance on his way to being named the game’s first star.

With both teams having a late night of travel following Friday’s games, it was expected that this was going to be a war of attrition between two injury-riddled teams. More importantly, Buffalo was hoping to use Friday’s emotional win as a springboard to continued success as they opened a stretch that will see them play five of their next six games away from the First Niagara Center. They were also looking to win two straight for the first time since early November.

That wasn’t going to be the case tonight.

Jason Williams set the tone early at 2:17 of the opening period when his 64-foot slapshot from just outside the Buffalo blueline hit Jordan Leopold’s skate on its way past Ryan Miller. That would be a sign of things to come for Miller who was lifted at the 9:43 mark of the first after allowing three goals on Pittsburgh’s first seven shots.

“It was like I was up against (Detroit Tigers pitcher) Justin Verlander on that (first goal),” explained Miller. “I was expecting fastball, he threw a curve. Jordan said it ticked him on the skate and put some drop spin on it. It’s not a good goal to have. I was standing at the plate frozen.”

The Penguins upped the lead to 3-0 on goals by Malkin and Simon Despres, before Thomas Vanek would close the gap to a pair when he drilled a slapshot from the slot past a helpless Marc-Andre Fleury. Jason Pominville picked up an assist on the goal to extend his point streak to six games (1-7-8).

But that was as close as the Sabres would come.

It was like I was up against Justin Verlander ... I was expecting fastball, he threw a curve ... I was standing at the plate frozen. - Ryan Miller on Pittsburgh's first goal
“There were a couple of plays that were system related,” said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. “But when it comes down to it, when goals go in like that, it’s tough on a team. I’ve been in games like that where you’re afraid to play. You start trying to stop every shot, instead of trying to play in the other end. You can’t play like that.”

Miller returned to the Buffalo cage to start the second period, and was promptly greeted by a one-timed laser from James Neal on the power play just 53 seconds into the period. Miller’s night came to an end after the second. He gave up five Pittsburgh goals on 15 shots in just under 30 minutes of action. Jhonas Enroth was touched up for three goals on 11 shots and was credited with the loss.

Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad scored late goals for the Sabres, but it was too little, too late. The eight goals allowed by Buffalo were the most since an 8-2 loss on December 6, 2007 in Los Angeles.

Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart both left the game with lower body injuries. Ennis said he left for precautionary reasons after appearing to reinjure his ankle, and Lindy Ruff categorized his status as day-to-day. The same can’t be said for Stuart, who Ruff expects to miss at least a month or more.

NOTES: Brayden McNabb (healthy), Jochen Hecht (lower body), Corey Tropp (upper body) were Buffalo’s scratches. The Sabres have now lost 124 man games to injury this season … These two teams won’t meet again until February 19 in Buffalo. The Penguins have yet to play in Buffalo this season.
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