Pens streak through Buffalo
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Both streaks are alive and, presumably, so are the Penguins after perhaps their most violent game of the season.
Buffalo tried to derail the winning streak by playing an unusually physical game, but even that didn't work against hockey's hottest team. Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to 18 games with a third-period assist, and the Penguins won their 12th straight with a 5-2 victory at HSBC Arena.
Dustin Jeffrey, Arron Asham, Alex Goligoski, Mike Rupp and Matt Cooke scored for the Penguins. Crosby picked up an assist on Goligoski's third-period goal to extend his streak.
"It's nice to see everyone contribute like this," Crosby said.
Most of the Sabres -- nobody more than Pittsburgh native Mike Weber -- seemed intent on taking runs at Crosby at every possible moment. Weber cornered Crosby in the second period and threw a number of punches at his head.
"I knew he was going to punch me," a somewhat-terse Crosby said after the game. "I got two minutes (in penalties); he got four."
For the second game in a row, delivering blows to Crosby was clearly a plan off attack for the opposition. Buffalo followed the precedent Toronto set Wednesday, but both teams ended up with losses.
"I think you've got to stay in his face," Weber said. "Get him worried about you, get him worried about the refs -- things like that."
Weber's punches were followed in the third period by Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers attempting to level Crosby in the neutral zone. At the last second, Crosby eluded the hit.
"Right now, teams are trying to figure out a way to beat us," Rupp said. "So, that's the kind of stuff they're going to try. They got a little brave out there."
The Penguins routinely defend Crosby when he is under attack, but Rupp made it clear that Crosby can defend himself. He also stated that Crosby is more interested in winning than being protected.
"Sid told us after the second period not to worry about that kind of stuff," Rupp said. "He's a tough captain, a tough superstar. He told us just to go out and play and get the two points."
Jeffrey, recalled Friday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scored at 6:43 of the first period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. It was his second career goal.
"I can honestly say I couldn't have written a better script," Jeffrey said. "It definitely took any nerves away. The way this team is playing right now, you just want to chip in and do your part. It felt great."
Asham scored to make it 2-0 at 9:31. Late in the period, the game turned nasty. Cooke found himself in a fight moments after Buffalo's Tyler Ennis scored on a five-on-three power play to make it 2-1. In the second period, Weber went after Crosby.
"There was some chippiness out there," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "There wasn't a whole lot of flow in the game because of the emotion."
The Penguins maintained their 2-1 lead until the third period, when Crosby extended his streak. He flipped a backhand pass to Goligoski, whose shot appeared to hit a skate and get past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
Jason Pominville scored for Buffalo 51 seconds later to make the game interesting again, but Rupp's late goal from close range put the contest away.
Cooke added an empty-netter in the final minute.
The Penguins are five wins from matching their NHL record for consecutive wins with 17. When will they start thinking about that?
"After No. 16," Crosby said with a smile.
Instead, the Penguins will focus on Tuesday's showdown in Philadelphia.
"Two of the top teams in the league," Bylsma said.
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