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Sabres at Penguins - 03-08-11

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME
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Greetings from a wonderful late winter day in Pittsburgh. It's sunny with a few clouds and in the low 50s. It's wonderful out. Just wonderful. A few sights from downtown. They're melting the ice at the PPG ice rink:

-PPG Place:

-If you didn't know Benedum-Trees Building was a historic landmark, you do now:

-Sunny times for the (Randy) Carlyle Building:

-Part of BNY Mellon's evil corporate lair:

-The Civic Arena:

-The line for student rushers in front of the current facility:

-Paul Coffey still has at least one fan here:

-So does former Penguins and Sabres goaltender Tom Barrasso:

-The coupon blimp getting a fill-up:

-The ice:

-Some more jersey sightings. Two really displaced jersey fouls here. Steven Stamkos Lightning:

-And Milan Lucic Bruins:

-Alex Kovalev still has plenty of fans around:

-As always, there are more than a few Sabres fans in town:

-Ryan Miller:

-Tyler Myers:

-Gilbert Perreault:

-If you have a Paul Gaustad jersey, you're pretty hardcore:

-Fans coming in off Centre Avenue:

-Kevin Stevens:

-Martin Straka:

-Mike Rupp:

-Bob Errey:

-The couple that apreciates, cheap, dirty players like Patrick Kaleta together, stays together:

-Petr Sykora:

-Ryan Whitney:

-Ryan Mill___ Team USA:

-Sidney Cros___ Team Canada:

-Jersey of the Night: Mike Peca Sabres from the late 1990s/early 2000s:

-Warm ups:

-Welcome back Chris Kunitz to the lineup. It looks like he'll be on the second line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy. Matt Cooke gets bumped the third line with Mark Letestu and Pascal Dupuis.

-The Penguins' starters are Craig Adams, Mike Rupp, Maxime Talbot, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Chris Conner and Eric Godard.

-Staal,

-The Sabres' starters are Tim Connolly, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Chris Butler, Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller.

-Their scratches are Mike Grier, Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, Patrick Lalime, Shaone Morrisonn and Thomas Vanek.

-We'll break our "No Jimerson- No Photo" rule for a military band:

FIRST PERIOD

19:10: Kovalev takes the ice as a Penguin at home for the first time since Feb. 3, 2003.

18:49: Gerbe has a chanc ein the slot and chops a loose puck on net. It appears to flutter up on him a bit. Fleury fights it off.

18:16: Kunitz centers a pass from the left wing to the slot. Kennedy is there and snaps it on net. Miller is in perfect position and eats it up.

17:33: Luke Adam shifflse a pass from the left wing corner to the slot . Brad Boyes is there and hurries the shot on net. Fleury comes up with the save.

17:13: And the Sabre take an early lead. Rob Niedmerayer controls the puck on the right wing, blows right by a weak stick check by Martin, goes backhand to forehand and pounds a little wrister through Fleury and into the cage. What a play by Niedermayer against his former Devils teammate. Myers gets the only assist. Sabres 1-0.

16:50: Kennedy chops a slapper from the right wing. Miller kicks it out.

16:14: Kunitz and Mike Weber race for a loose puck in the right wing corner of the Sabres' zone. Kunitz smacks him with a solid shoulder check into the boards.

14:30: Rupp controls the puck on the left wing boards in the neutral zone and chips it into the Sabres zone. While attempting to track it down, he's held up slightly by Cody McCormick and Steve Montador.

13:35: HUGE save! Dupus controls the puck at the right point and deals a cross ice pass to Cooke in the right wing circle. Cooke takes the pass, cuts to the slot and swats it on net. Miller reads the play all the way and kicks it out. Dustin Jeffrey jumps on the rebound and punches it on net. Miller kicks that out also. Miller came to play.

13:14: Ben Lovejoy drives a slapper from the right point. Miller eats it up.

12:43: And the Penguins take the first penalty. What's new there? Deryk Englland is called for high sticking. Gerbe is listed as a generous five-foot-five. You can't help but high stick him. Talbot, Craig Adams, Michalek and Martin take the ice.

12:22: Andrej Sekera chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off despite a screen in front.

11:22: Mark Mancari has a clean look on a one-timer in the left circle but his stick breaks mid-shot and the puck flutters in on net.

11:13: The Sabers are called for too many  men on ice. Tyler Ennis will serve the minor. Four-on-four for 30 seconds.

10:37: Just as Engelland's penalty expires, the Sabres dig their hole a little deeper. Jordan Leopold sticks an elbow into the back of James Neal in the left wing corner of the Sabres zanone and sends him to the boards face first. That's two minutes for boarding. The Penguins will ave a five on thre for 1:24. A goal is a must here. Martin, Kovalev, Staal, Neal and Letang take the ice.

9:57: Letang tees up a slapper from the slot. Myers blocks it.

9:46: Martin drives a one-timer from the right point. Myers blocks that too.

9:39: Letang whips a wrister from the slot. Miller gloves it.

9:16: Kovalev deals a pas to a pass to Letang at the left point. Letang drives a one-timer on net. Miller makes the save.

9:04: Ennis races out of the penalty box, picks up the loose puck in the neutral zone and is off on a mini-breakaway from the right wing. Martin gives chase and applies pressure. Ennis fends it off and attacks the net. His forehand shot is kicked out by Fleury's right leg.

8:37: The Leopold minor expires. What a missed opportunity for the Penguins. Just a complete failure with a long two-man advantage.

7:31: Weber snaps off a loose puck from above the right circle on net. Fleury kicks it out.

7:11: During a stoppage, a brief video tribute to Kovalev's return set to "Get Back" by the Beatles is played. Solid stuff.

5:00: The Penguins get to trot this ugly looking power play out again after Adam is nabbed for elbowing Michalek behind the Penguins' net. Neal, Kovalev, Letang, Martin and Staal take the ice.

4:22: Kennedy feeds a pass from the right wing to the front of the crease. Kovalev re-directs it on net. Miller fights it off.

3:43: Martin chops a slapper from the left point. Miller is screened as either Kunitz and/or Myers re-directs it on net. Miller appears surprised to get his glove hand on the puck which deflects to his left.

3:02: Kunitz rips a wrister from the slot. Gaustad blocks it.

3:00: Adam's penalty is killed.The Penguins looked a little better there.

1:55: Martin fires a slapper from the left point. Staal is in front, blocks it down, spins and whips the rebound on net. Miller says no.

1:07: Lovejoy leads a rush into the offensive zone, gains the blue line and snaps off a wrister from above the left circle. Miller kicks it out. Lovejoy recovers the rebound in the left wing corner and backhands it to the crease. Miller eats it up.

0:23: Neal has a wrister from the right circle blocked by Leopold.

0:00: End of period. Sabres 1, Penguins 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION


-One team pretty much played all out as if its playoff life was on the line. The other coasted as if it has a fairly high seed in the conference. Guess which one the Penguins were.

-The Sabres were by far the more aggressive team that period. They attacked the offensive zone quite a bit. They got pucks on net and had much better quality chances. On top of that, they did a wonderful job of collapsing around their net and blocking shots and passes. The deserve this lead.

-It doesn't matter who is healthy or who is available. This power play is just flawed from a structural standpoint.

-Miller was outstanding. Don't take anything away from him. He made a handful of tough saves.

-Kunitz looked like his usual self. He was aggressive on the forecheck and even created a few scoring chances. He skated pretty well also.

-The Sabres have a 15-12 lead in shots.

-Lovejoy, Kennedy, Letang, Mancari, Sekera and Ennis each lead the game with two shots.

-Letang leads the game with 9:53 of ice time.

-Leopold leads the Sabres with 7:54.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-The Penguins control faceoffs, 14-7 (67 percent).

-Letestu is 5 for 7 (71 percent).

-Boyes is 2 for 2 (100 percent).

-Sekera leads the game with two blocked shots.

-EN cohort Ron Michalak spotted a few jerseys. Another former Penguins and Sabres goaltender who wore No. 35, Ty Conklin:

-Jarkko Ruutu:

-Pat LaFontaine:

SECOND PERIOD

19:35: Staal gets some medical repairs on the bench after he apparently took a stick to the face from Connelly on the opening draw.

18:41:Cooke gains the offensive zone on the left wing and taps a centering pass to Dupuis entering the offensive zone in the slot. Dupuis pumps a quick one-timer on net. Miller eats it up. Attendance is announced as 18,342. It is the team's 199th consecutive sellout.

18:35: Welcome to Pittsburgh James Neal. Staal wins the faceoff in the left wing corner of the Sabres zone. Engelland claims the puck and sneaks up the left wing. He punches a backhanded pass towards the crease. Neal is standing just outside the blue pain and swats it on net. It appears to clip off Miller's left foot and hops into the net. That's his first goal as a Penguin. And it's a big on as it ties the game. That's pretty much the type of goals he's supposed to score. From near the net. Engelland and Staal get assists. The "Woo-Hoo!" song is played. Penguins 1, Sabres 1.

17:01: Niedermayer lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury traps it against his chest and freezes play.

18:01: Kovalev floats a wrister rfrom above the left circle on net. Miller kicks it out.

16:47: Kunitz steals a puck off Leopold in the Sabres slot, circles and deals a pass to Staal trailing on the left wing. Staal attacks the net an lifts a little wrister WAAAAAY over the net and out of play. Yeesh.

15:18: Welcome to Pittsburgh Zybnek Michalek. Neals circles the offensive zone, emerges around the right side of the cage and deals a pass to the left point. Michalek is there. He takes the pass, winds up and blows a slapper by Miller on the glove side. It's Michalek's first goal of the season and first as a Penguin. A good night for first goals. Neal and xx get assists. Our long campaign of predicting Michalek's goal on Twitter finally comes true. The "Woo-Hoo!" song is played. Penguins 2-1.

14:06: More bad times for the Sabres as McCormick is nabbed for tripping Letestu. Letang, Kennedy, Martin, Staal and Kovalev take the ice.

12:28: Kunitz pushes a pass to Letang at the left point. Letang winds up and chops a half slapper towards the net. Kunitz is in front and re-directs it on net. The puck hits a body and is cleared out of the Sabres' zone.

12:06: The McCormick minor is killed. That was another weak effort for the Penguins.

9:47: Kennedy shuffles a backhander on net from the right wing circle. Miller eats it up. Kunitz is nabbed for goaltending interference. Michalek, Martin, Cooke and Adams take the ice.

8:00: Stafford circles in the left wing circle and fires a wrister. Michalek blocks it.

7:53: Stafford sneaks a pass from the left wing corner to the slot. Pominville is there and jabs it on net. Fleury eats it up and keeps it out.

7:47: The Kunitz penalty is killed. Not much going on there for the Sabres.

6:09: Montador chases after a dump in into the left wing corner of the Sabres' zone with Neal giving chase on a forecheck. Montador turns and whips it up ice. It hits Neal's skate and deflects on net. Miller keeps it out. Montador owes Miller a beer.

5:55: Lovejoy thumps Ennis into the dasher board on the Sabres' bench. Ennis kind of "rides" the board into the turnbuckle and falls to the ice face first. That was kind of funny looking.

5:40: There's a pile up of angry bodies in front of the Penguins' bench. A few bodies in white appear to be going after Lovejoy for his hit. Lovejoy and Mancari emerge from the pile with a linesmen between them. Mancari throws a few punches as the linesman tries to separate them. Manchari, Gaustad and Lovjeoy each get roughing minors. The Penguins' have a power play. Staal, Kennedy, Letang, Kovalev and Martin take the ice.

4:22: From the slot, Letang deals a pass to Kovalev on the right half wall. Kovalev cranks a one-timer which gets deflected wide.

4:13: HUGE SAVE! Neal controls the puck on the right wing and deals a nice feed to the slot. Kunitz is there and re-directs it on net. Miller robs him with his right leg. Kunitz chops at he rebound but is denied again by Miller. HUGE!

4:03: Another big save! Jeffrey puts a wrister on net from above the right circle. It hits a body inf ront. Kunitz chops at the rebound. The puck comes to Letesu who is able to corral the loose puck for a second just outside the crease. He has a seemingly wide open net to shoot but Miller robs him with his paddle knocking the puck away.

2:24: Talbot leads a three-on-one rush up the ice with Cooke and Engelland against Montador. Talbot gains the offensive zone on the right  wing and leaves a drop pass for Engalland. From above the right circle, Engelland fakes a shot and deals back to Talbot in the right circle. Talbot has his stick cocked but fans on a one-timer attempt and falls over. Ugh. That pretty much how Talbot's season on offense has gone.

2:13: The Penguisn are nabbed for too many men on the ice. Kennedy will serve the minor. Adams, Michalek, Staal and Martin take the ice.

0:13: Kennedy returns to the ice. Nothing much going on there for the Sabres.

0:04: Macari has a slapper from the right point blocked by Michalek.

0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Sabres 1.

SECOND INTERMISSON


-What a response by the Penguins. They matches the Sabres' intesity that period, generated some chances, cashed a few in and took the lead.

-The physical play picked up a bit too for the Penguins. They were a bit more aggressive with the body.

-Fleury and Miller have been very sharp tonight. This has been a goaltending duel.

-Stat of the Night: Michalek became the 450th different player in franchise history to score a regular season goal.

-The Sabres have a 22-20 edge in shots.

-Kunitz, Letang and Pominville each lead the game with three shots.

-Letang leads the game with 19:06 of ice time.

-Sekera leads the Sabres with 15:29.

-The Penguins have a 26-19 lead in faceoffs (58 percent).

-Letestu is 7 for 11 (64 percent).

-Connolly is 8 for 15 (53 percent).

-Michalek leads the game with three blocked shots.

-Weber, Gaustad and Myer each lead the game with two blocked shots.

-Based on the cover of tonight's IceTime, Mark Letestu might give Brooks Orpik a run for his money as the team's designated "crazy-eye dude:"

THIRD PERIOD

18:33: Gerbe whips a wrister on net from the left wing. Fleury fights it off.

16:54: Butler sneaks a slapper through traffic an on net from the left point. Fleury kicks it out.

16:12: "Seach and Destroy" by Iggy Pop and the Stooges is played:

15:02: Neal gains the offensive zone on the right wing, cuts to the slot and whips a heavy wrister on net. Miller eats it up with a "thud."

14:50: Neal isn't holding anything back with his shot tonight. he races into the offensive zone on the right wing and rips a wrister on the near side. Miller gloves it.

14:36: Mancari lifts a wrister form the right circle. Fleury fights it off with his left shoulder. Gaustad clips Fliery whis his tick battling fo the puck. Adam seems to have wide open net to shootout at but pushes it wide. Gaustad is called for high sticking Fleury. Kovalev, Letang, Staal, Martin and Kennedy take the ice.

13:31: Kovalev rips a wrister from the right circle. Weber blocks it over the net.

12:35: Just as Gaustad's minor is killed. Neal controls the puck on the right half wall and rips a wrister on net. Miller fihts it off despite a screen by Kunitz. Kunitz tries to corral the rebound but is cross checked by Butler. That's two minutes. Martin, Staal, Kovalev, Letan gand Kennedy take the ice.

11:40: From the right half wall, Kovalev taps a cross ice pass to Martin sneaking in from the left point. Martin puts a wrister on net. Miller fights it off.

10:50: Jeffrey whips a wrister on net from the right wing. Miller fights it off.

10:37: Niskanen pounds a slapper from the left point. Miller kicks it out to the right point. Jeffrey drives the puck on net with his own slapper. Miller eats it up.

10:35: Butler's minor is killed. The Penguins have had pelnty of chances to put this game out of reach but can't cash in.

8:15: Michalek drives a slapper from the right point. Miller kicks it out. Everyone here offers an "Ohhhh...!" This place might've burnt to the ground through spontaneuous combustion if Michalek got another goal.

7:30: Cooke gets loose on a partial breakaway and rips a wrister. Miller punches it away with his blocker.

7:11: Butler snaps off a wrister from the left point. It hits a body in front.

6:54: Dear lord. Was that another Michalek goal? Michalek snaps off a wrister from the right half wall. Letestu skates in front of Miller and re-directs it with his forehand by the glove of Miller on the near side. Letestu gets credit for the goal. Riots may have started if Michalek had a second. Michalek gets the only assist. The "Woo-Hoo!" song is always a riot. Penguins 3-1.

6:37: Leopold snaps off a wrster from the left wing. Fleury fights it off.

4:16: From the left half wall, Myers chucks a wrister on net which hits Letang and defelcts on net. Fleury kicks it out. Letang swats the rebound down ice. That's icing. Dan Bylsma calls time out to give his team a breather.

3:08: Gaustad attemps a warpa round from the right side of the cage. Fleury kicks it out.

2:40: Kunitz moves up the left wing and sneaks a centering pass to the crease. Kennedy is there but he's a step slow and misses the puck.

1:30: Miller is pulled for an extra attacker.

1:05: Talbot seals a puck i the neutral zone and sends it down ice at the empty net. It hits off the right side of the cage.

0:48: Fleury attemps to wcorral a dump in at the left wing corner and whip it down ice to them epty cage. it ghets intercepted by a player in white and fails to leave the Penguins' zone. He scrambles to get back in net. Thankfully for the Penguins, the Sabres fail to get a shot off.

0:24: Fleury catches a bouncing puck. The Sabres call a time out to get organized.

0:15: Gausdad and Michalek cross check the snot out of each other. No call.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 3, Sabres 1.

POSTGAME


-That was another grinding, ugly, hard-working win for the Penguins. They simply won the majority of the physical battles, put pucks on net and cashed in on a few mistakes to earn this two points tonight.

-Fleury was once again the star of the game in our eyes. He rebound after an early goal and came through with more than a few clutch saves, including the breakaway by Ennis after the Penguins' five on three power play expired. A goal there make this a totally different game. He gave his team a chance to win.  He is the MVP of this team.

-James Neal came to life in a big way tonight. Once he got his goal, he just seemed to have so much more confidence than his first six games when he seemed a bit hesitant.

-No one is ever going to confuse Zbynek Michalek with Sergei Gonchar, but this guy has a good shot. And he's a solid puck handler. If the Penguins didn't have so many players like Letang, Niskanen, Martin and Alex Goligoski handling most of the offensive opportunites this season, Michalek might be a 20-point player. Again, he's never going to be confused with an elite offensive blueliner, but he can do some things with th epuck.

-Chris Kunitz came back in a big way. He was very aggressive on the forecheck and was very strong in terms of jumping on second-chance rebounds. Injuries limited him quite a bit last season. He looked like a player who was completely healthy after roughly a month of downtime.

-Ryan Miller was very strong too. He stole more than a few goals. Just not enough. This was a goaltending duel. Fleury just happened to be better.

-This is the second time the Penguins swept a season series against the Sabres. The last was a 4-0-0 effort in 2007-08.

-The Sabres played a strong game despite having some injuries/illnesses. That said, the Penguins aren't going to feel sorry for them on account of medical issues given their own list of injured players.

-The Penguins had a 31-30 edge in shots.

-Jeffrey and Neal each led the game with four shots.

-Mancari, Pominville and Sekera each led the Sabres with three.

-Letang led the game with 19:16 of ice time.

-Staal was second with a surprising 27:05.

-Myers led the Sabres with 22:53.

-The Penguins had a 33-31 edge in faceoffs (52 percent).

-Letestu was 10 for 15 (67 percent).

-Boyes was 9 for 12 (75 percent).

-Weber led the game with five blocked shots.

-Michalek led the Penguins with four.

-Staal passed up Bryan Hextall for 37th place on the team's all-time scoring list. Both players have 186 points but Staal (91) has more goals than Hextall (71).

-Once again, Michalek became the 450th different player in franchise history to score a regular season goal.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

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