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Pens win on historic night

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The lights went down at Mellon Arena in the minutes before Tuesday's game between the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, and a spotlight fell on the ice just outside the Zamboni tunnel.

The roar grew louder and louder until it hit a deafening pitch as the sold-out crowd of 17,132 realized it was Mario Lemieux standing in front of them.

"I'm proud to announce your Pittsburgh Penguins will remain here in Pittsburgh where they belong," Lemieux said hours after a news conference announcing a new arena deal.

Two-and-a-half hours later, the crowd was on its feet in celebration once again after the Penguins knocked off the Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo Sabres in a shootout, 5-4.

Erik Christensen and Sidney Crosby scored for the Penguins in the shootout, and Marc-Andre Fleury allowed one goal but made the final save after Crosby scored for the victory.

The Penguins (38-21-10) have gone to overtime in their last five games and six out of the past seven.

"We deserved to win this one," Crosby said. "A few of the other ones we didn't play 60 minutes, and we didn't deserve to win maybe in some cases. But (Tuesday) we really limited their shots, and I think we deserved to win this one."

Crosby had a goal and two assists in regulation for his first multi-point game in 10 games. Ryan Malone, Maxime Talbot and Sergei Gonchar scored the other three for the Penguins. Ryan Whitney had three assists, and Gonchar also had an assist.

Fleury made 15 saves as the Penguins outshot the Sabres, 38-19.

The Penguins did let a two-goal lead in the third period slip away, but it was the first game of late in which they haven't had to mount a furious comeback in the third period in order to get a win.

"I look at this game as a positive -- we got two points," Penguins forward Mark Recchi said. "We took the battle to them. That's the first real solid game we have played in a while."

Crosby said the win was even nicer when coupled with the news of the day that the team is staying in Pittsburgh.

"It's exciting when you skate on the ice with the energy in the building (last night)," Crosby said. "I think everyone's relieved including us. We can put it past us and move forward, and I think we're all happy for that."

Crosby and Gonchar scored in the third period to open a tie game and take a 4-2 lead, but Daniel Briere scored after getting open on a 2-on-1 with eight minutes left and Chris Drury tied it with seven seconds left to force overtime.

Drury's goal came after the Sabres called a timeout and pulled goaltender Ryan Miller out of the net for an extra skater.

Crosby won the faceoff, and the Penguins took the play to the Sabres' end, where Recchi hit the post and Malone hit the side of the net before the Sabres got control with 20 seconds left in regulation.

Defenseman Josef Melichar actually got to the puck behind the Penguins' net but couldn't clear it on a wraparound attempt, and Drury was in front of the net to convert a pass from Briere.

"They got a little bit lucky near the end, but I was pleased with how we played," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien, who returned to the team following a four-day absence to attend the funeral of his father, Gerry, in Montreal. "That was maybe our strongest game in a long time."

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