Martin's late goal lifts Pens to win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. — As emotions ran high Sunday, the guy with the lowest pulse delivered victory.
Penguins defenseman Paul Martin's knuckleball with 2:04 remaining in the third period secured a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres during a wild afternoon at First Niagara Center.
The Penguins (11-5-0, 22 points) improved to 8-2 on the road — their best record in franchise history through 10 road games — and have claimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I like the way we responded,” Martin said. “That was really big for us. A big win.”
The Penguins started fast — they beat Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller on their first two shots, taking a 2-0 lead 87 seconds into the nationally televised game — and finished well, coming back from a 3-2 deficit, thanks to goals by right wing Pascal Dupuis and Martin.
In between, their performance was spotty and marred by penalties. Right wing James Neal and left wing Chris Kunitz ended up in the penalty box after retaliating against the pesky Sabres. Buffalo evened the game when captain Sidney Crosby and left wing Tanner Glass took penalties two seconds apart, giving the Sabres a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:58.
“I think the plan around the league might be for teams to get us off our game by trying to get us to retaliate,” Dupuis said. “That's how people are going to play us, to try to get under our skin. We need to control ourselves a little better. We knew about it coming in.”
Midway through the third period, the Penguins channeled their emotions away from taking bad penalties and focused on Buffalo's defensive shortcomings. The Sabres have allowed a league-leading 54 goals, and the Penguins dominated play during the final 10 minutes, using a relentless forecheck to pin Buffalo defensemen in their territory.
Dupuis was a big part of this victory.
He buried a pass from defenseman Kris Letang at the 7:06 mark of the third period to even the game. Dupuis also scored the game's first goal and suggested the Penguins' top line is close to finding its form from two years ago.
“We did it when Sid was healthy a few years ago,” Dupuis said. “It seems like we're clicking again.”
Neither coach Dan Bylsma nor Crosby were particularly upset by the Penguins' penalties. Bylsma suggested a couple of penalties could have been called the other way, while Crosby explained it was simply an emotional game.
“That's up for everyone to decide,” Crosby said. “I didn't think we were too undisciplined. Lots of stuff going on in this game. I didn't think we were so bad.”
Buffalo forward Steve Ott, one of the game's most accomplished pests, acknowledged that irritating the Penguins was part of the Sabres' plan.
“If it leads to a lack of discipline on their side,” Ott said, “so be it.”
Buffalo's tactics might have led to a lack of discipline, but they also inspired a Penguins team that has won three straight.
“We've got to be careful with the penalties,” said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who improved to 8-3-0 and is tied for the league lead in wins. “But we got the job done. It was an emotional game, an emotional win.”