Pens fall in overtime
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Conor Sheary and the Buffalo Sabres aren’t ready to be counted out of the Eastern Conference playoff race just yet.
With Buffalo in jeopardy of fading further down the standings, Sheary assisted on Brandon Montour’s tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation and scored his second of the game with 49 seconds left in overtime in a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
“We know at this point of the year we’ve got to press for every point we can get,” Sheary said. “So these two points were really important. I get the opportunity to be in some really good positions being out there in overtime, and I was able to take advantage.”
After both teams traded scoring chances, Sheary scored on a giveaway in the Penguins end. Marcus Pettersson’s pass up the left boards skipped off the stick of teammate Evgeni Malkin and directly to Sheary. He then cut into the middle and, using Phil Kessel as a screen, snapped a shot that beat goalie Matt Murray over his right shoulder.
The goal was allowed to stand after the NHL reviewed whether the Sabres were offside upon first entering the zone. Though a replay showed Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin crossing the blue line with the puck behind him, the league ruled Dahlin had possession.
“It was big. We’ve been in a rut late,” said Sabres captain Jack Eichel, who also scored. “It was awesome to see ‘Shears’ get rewarded against his old team.”
Scoring clutch goals was a key reason the Sabres acquired Sheary in trade with the Penguins last June. And though he’s only scored 11 times in 60 games for Buffalo, Sheary on Friday provided Buffalo a tremendous boost at time it was slipping out of the playoff race.
By improving to 2-5-1 in their past seven, the Sabres jumped into 11th place in the East, and now sit seven points back of eighth-place Columbus and Pittsburgh, which remained in ninth.
Linus Ullmark stopped 41 shots for Buffalo.
Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist scored power-play goals 63 seconds apart late in the second period, and Nick Bjugstad also had a goal for the Penguins. Crosby’s goal was the 439th of his career to move into a tie with Jaromir Jagr for second on the franchise list.
Murray stopped 26 shots as the Penguins dropped to 5-2-2 in their past nine.
With five weeks left in the season, the aging and injury-depleted Penguins are suddenly facing questions of potentially missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.
“We need to fight. It’s not easy games anymore. We understand that it’s not easy and it’s a good challenge before the playoffs,” Malkin said.
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson made his Penguins debut since being acquired in a trade with Vancouver on Monday. In the meantime, defensemen Brian Dumoulin (concussion) and Kris Letang (upper body) missed their second straight game and have already been ruled out from playing at Montreal on Saturday.
“It’s frustrating for sure that we let a point get away because it was there to be had,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “But I thought for the most of the night we were the better team.”
The Penguins outshot Buffalo 44-30 overall, and went ahead 3-2 with 1:39 left in the second period when Hornqvist and Crosby scored with Sabres forward Scott Wilson serving a double-minor penalty for high sticking Pettersson.
The Sabres responded when Montour, playing in his first game in Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Anaheim on Sunday, tied it by knuckling in a shot from the blue line that beat Murray on the right, glove side.
It marked Buffalo’s second consecutive overtime win over the Penguins. The Sabres rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Penguins 5-4 in overtime at Pittsburgh in November.
Despite the loss, the Penguins and Crosby continued their lengthy string of dominance over Buffalo.
Pittsburgh improved to 14-0-3 in its past 17 meetings, and hasn’t lost to the Sabres in regulation since Buffalo’s 4-2 win on April 23, 2013. And the Penguins improved to 8-0-2 in their past 10 visits to Buffalo since a 6-2 loss on Feb. 19, 2012.
Crosby has a point in 34 of 38 games against the Sabres — a stretch in which he has 20 goals and 39 assists.
NOTES: Sabres C Vladimir Sobotka is listed as day to day after sustaining an upper-body injury in 5-2 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. … Sabres D Marco Scandella was out with a lower-body injury. …. Hornqvist became just the second player selected last in the draft to appear in his 700th career game. He joined Kim Johnsson (selected 286th by Rangers in 1994), who played 739 games. Hornqvist was selected 230th overall by Nashville in 2005. … Linesman Brad Kovachik worked his 1,500th career game.
Penguins: Conclude four-game road trip at Canadiens tonight.
Sabres: At Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.