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Pens' Fleury wins goaltender duel in Buffalo

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Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009
 

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If a Stanley Cup playoff series is in the cards for the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, everybody involved can expect some tense moments given that Saturday night produced a fourth consecutive one-goal game between these clubs.

What fans probably cannot expect is better goalie play — even if the Sabres understandably opt to start Vezina Trophy candidate Ryan Miller, who did not play in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins at HSBC Arena.

Miller watched Sabres backup Patrick Lalime and Penguins star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury engage in a classic duel of big saves at key moments - no saves bigger than Fleury's three in the shootout to make defenseman Kris Letang's lone score stand.

"I never give much thought to it; I just try to take one shooter at a time," Fleury said after improving to 4-0 in shootouts, where he has stopped 12 of 13 shots.

The Penguins (25-10-1, 51 points) won their fifth in a row behind Fleury's 31 saves on a night when captain Sidney Crosby failed to score for the first time this season in six shootout chances.

Crosby thought he put a shootout shot behind Lalime, who turned aside 23 shots, but officials ruled Lalime prevented the puck from crossing the goal line.

"I saw 5-hole open," Crosby said. "It was in between his pads. I'm not a big fan."

Crosby was joking about that last part, but his move up the Penguins' all-time scoring list is no joke. His assist on winger Chris Kunitz's first-period goal pulled him even with former Penguins defenseman Paul Coffey for ninth place with 440 points.

Crosby has recorded a point in 14 of 17 games. His 13 goals and 27 points over that span have catapulted him into the thick of the NHL scoring race.

The Penguins failed to score on five power plays, and most of their seven shots were generated before their precise puck movement stalled in the final period.

The Sabres went without a goal on eight power plays. They managed just a shot each on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 65 seconds, and a full two minutes of 4-on-3 power-play time late in overtime.

"It wasn't our style of game, and we definitely didn't play our best," center Jordan Staal said. "We didn't get opportunities to cycle in our end."

The clubs traded opening-period goals. Winger Jason Pominville staked Buffalo to a 1-0 lead with about five minutes remaining, but the Penguins pulled even on Kunitz's first goal in four games since missing 13 consecutive contests with a lower-body injury.

The second period passed without a goal, but not without harm to the Penguins.

Steady defenseman Mark Eaton did not return after playing only two minutes and 13 seconds in the second. The Penguins had no update on Eaton's status.

Eaton is the club's only defenseman to appear in every game. He has played in 103 of 117 games since last season after missing 93 because of various injuries during two previous seasons.

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