Playing in their first afternoon game of the season, the Buffalo Sabres clearly weren’t bothered by the early wake-up call.
Derek Roy posted his first two-goal game in more than three months and Christian Ehrhoff added three assists as the Sabres handed the Pittsburgh Penguins a 6-2 loss in front of a giddy sold-out matinee crowd at First Niagara Center.
Jason Pominville also had three points (1+2) in the game, giving him six goals and four assist in his last eight games. Paul Gaustad scored the game winner, and now has seven points (3+4) in his last 10 games. He also won a game-high 16 of 23 faceoffs.
The win snapped an 0-3-1 skid for the Sabres, and improved their record to 25-27-7. Now at 57 points, the Sabres moved up to 14th spot in the Eastern Conference and are now just seven points behind Toronto for eighth in the East.
Buffalo jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Pominville, Roy and Gaustad. When Deryk Engelland and Jordan Staal cut the lead to 3-2, you could almost sense the momentum start to shift towards the Penguins. But Drew Stafford took the air out of the Pittsburgh balloon when he replied 65 seconds after Staal’s goal to make it 4-2. Lindy Ruff said there was no doubt about how much that meant to the victory.
“I think the answer was getting the fourth one right away. That was the answer,” he explained. “Obviously, the thoughts started creeping in, ‘That's going to give them some life and these next few shifts are important.’ I think the fact that we got it back in deep and were playing in their end; that was the difference. I thought we just kept coming. I know we made some mistakes. We got some great saves out of Ryan but from a skating and moving the puck standpoint, we did a good job against their top line.”
For Roy it was just his second two-goal game of the season, the first coming on November 8 against Winnipeg. It’s been a frustrating year for Roy who came into the game with just 11 goals and 29 points in 56 games. Even he knows those aren’t acceptable numbers for a player that has led the Sabres in scoring for three of the past four seasons.
“It’s tough. Whenever you’re slumping and not scoring and your team’s losing hockey games, the burden falls on you,” said Roy. “The past few weeks I’ve been trying to work as hard as I can on my game and try to get better every night.
“I’ve just got to keep doing that, working hard to make plays, power play, five-on-five, whatever it takes. Just make plays and score goals. I was pretty frustrated with the fact I didn’t score that goal on the power play. He made a nice save, but at the same time, you want to finish that to go up three goals and close the game out. In the third period I was really mad and I wanted to go out and score a goal.
Ehrhoff’s three points matched his career high, and it was also the third time that he’s finished with three assists in a game. He also rang a laser off the crossbar in the second period that Marc-Andre Fleury definitely heard, but is still looking for.
“I’m pretty sick of hitting the crossbar by now,” joked Ehrhoff. “Maybe we need to make the goals a little bigger here.”
1-0 BUF: Pominville gets two whacks on the doorstep of the Myers rebound to open the scoring (:52)… 2-0: Roy with the toe-drag dangle on Orpik, and then a quick backhand that surprised Johnson (4:16) … Shots: PITT-10, BUF-7
3-0: Gaustad spins off Martin in the crease and bangs home Gerbe’s rebound. (2:52) … 3-1: Engelland gets Pittsburgh on the board when he one-times Malkin’s pass from the point. (3:39)… Shots: BUF-10, PITT-7
3-2: Staal’s backhand from the slot trickles behind Miller (5:05)… 4-2: After missing on his initial attempt, Stafford grabs the loose puck and wraps around into the open net (6:10)… 5-2: Roy streaks down the middle and redirects Pominville’s cross-ice pass between Fleury’s legs (8:32, SH)… 6-2: Kassian sent the puck in front to Ennis, and he uses some deft stickwork to get the puck behind Fleury (16:43)… Shots: PITT-9, BUF-7
SABRES NOTES: Buffalo’s pre-game warm-up was interrupted when pieces of glass from a shattered arena light became embedded in the ice, causing several players to lose the edges on their skates. They were granted a five-minute extension by the league, and completed the warm-up in Pittsburgh’s end of the ice after the Penguins had finished… Cody McCormick (upper body) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches… McCormick has now missed five games, and has not practiced since being injured against Dallas on February 10.