Sabres rally to win over Penguins

| Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008

Shameful power-play performances and the inability to maintain leads are all too familiar to the Penguins.

The Penguins' two biggest flaws led to a 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night at Mellon Arena.

"It was a horrible performance," coach Michel Therrien said. "That's the truth."

The Penguins watched a two-goal, second-period lead disappear before entering the third period with the score tied, 3-3. The Penguins also wasted a two-minute, two-man advantage in the second period.

"At 3-1, we started to play horribly," Therrien said. "It's pretty simple. We weren't playing bad until we got the lead at 3-1. After that we were horrible. We gave them the game."

Sabres forward and NHL goals leader Thomas Vanek scored the game-winning goal - his 20th of the season - at the 6:13 mark of the third period.

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller held the Penguins scoreless in the third period, and Pittsburgh lost back-to-back games for just the third time this season.

"Whether we gotta battle harder or go to different spots, whatever the case is, we gotta find ways to get goals in there," center Sidney Crosby said. "When games get tighter, that's where goals are gonna be scored."

Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko's two-goal performance was overshadowed by the Penguins' loss to a Sabres team that picked up just its fourth win in 12 games.

Defenseman Kris Letang scored his first goal - on a power play - in 52 games dating back to last season, when he scored in a March 12 game against Buffalo. Center Evgeni Malkin and forward Petr Sykora recorded two assists apiece.

The Penguins had one golden opportunity to put the game away, but couldn't deliver.

Leading 3-2 at the 9:14 mark of the second period, a pair of Sabres' penalties gave the Penguins a two-minute, two-man advantage.

They couldn't answer, though, and instead found themselves in a 3-3 game heading into the third period.

"The power play is not good," Therrien said. "We are trying to be cute. There's no traffic in front. We've asked people to go in front of the net, but they won't go. So we need the perfect shot."

Decisive third periods are nothing new to these teams. For the third time in as many meetings, the game was decided in the final period.

The last time the Penguins and Sabres met, the Penguins watched a 3-2 second-period lead disappear. Before that, the Penguins overcame a 2-1 third-period deficit and battled back for a 5-2 victory.

This time, the Penguins took a 2-1 first-period lead, thanks to the trio of Sykora, Malkin and Fedotenko.

Sykora passed the puck to Malkin, who set up Fedotenko's goal. Malkin's assist was the highlight of Fedotenko's first goal at 9:37 in the first period. The NHL assists leader passed the puck to himself via a backhand pass between his legs.

The rest of the play was simple after that crafty move. Malkin slid the puck in front of the net to find Fedotenko's stick just beside the goal post. A tap by Fedotenko, and the Penguins were up, 1-0.

The advantage disappeared when Sabres center Derek Roy scored an unassisted goal just a minute and a half later.

The Penguins regained the lead when the Malkin used a one-touch pass to set up Fedotenko at the 15:15 mark of the first period. The assist was Malkin's league-leading 34th, and the goal gave Fedotenko 250 career points.

The Penguins carried a 2-1 advantage into the second period. Letang's goal on the Penguins' two-man advantage made it 3-1.

The Sabres tightened the gap again when forward Ales Kotalik scored 6:40 into the second period to move within a goal. The Sabres tied the score when Daniel Paille scored at the 14:49 mark of the second period and scored the game winner in the final period.

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