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Lackluster Sabres able to get the best of passionless Penguins

| Monday, Feb. 20, 2012

BUFFALO — The Penguins' performance Sunday in Buffalo could be described as undisciplined. Defenseman Kris Letang wouldn't even give the Penguins that much credit following their 6-2 setback against the lowly Sabres.

"Discipline is one thing," Letang said. "But we didn't even show up."

The Penguins were short-handed five times, permitted a shorthanded goal, a penalty shot and never played with the enthusiasm expected from a team battling for playoff position in a nationally televised game.

"There's nothing you can say, honestly," said Letang, who, along with defenseman Paul Martin, was a minus-4.

"We didn't show up. We didn't play the right way."

Goals from defenseman Deryk Engelland and center Jordan Staal gave the Penguins life, pulling them within a goal in the third period after falling behind, 3-0.

However, two Buffalo goals in the following 3:27 not only put the contest away but illustrated just how poorly the Penguins played.

Center Drew Stafford scored on a wraparound goal to make it 4-2, with Martin and Engelland both losing track of their men on the play. Fleury, although brilliant in the second period after replacing Brent Johnson — who gave up three goals on 12 shots — was down on the play and allowed the shot to bounce off his chest and in.

"We left our goalies hung out to dry," Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis said.

Then, with the Penguins on a power play, the Sabres delivered a crushing blow.

Late on the man advantage, Letang chose to forecheck while the rest of the Penguins trailed the play. In fact, while Letang was pursuing the puck in Buffalo territory, center Evgeni Malkin was circling the Penguins' net. With the Penguins utterly out of position, right wing Zach Kassian found left wing Tyler Ennis for the goal that essentially ended the game.

"I don't know what the problem is," said center Craig Adams, who was referring to the Penguins' recent bout with discipline and poor starts. "But it is a problem."

The Penguins have permitted 10 first-period goals in their past seven games. Although they have managed to win three recent games despite allowing two first-period goals, the Penguins realize such a formula simply isn't acceptable.

"It was a letdown from our team," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

The Penguins got back into the game in the second period, but Fleury's play was most responsible. The Penguins were short-handed twice during that period and forced Fleury to stop forward Patrick Kaleta on a penalty shot.

"It's something we can't keep doing," Staal said. "This time of year, when you get down right off the bat, it just isn't easy coming back. It doesn't help any when you're short-handed. We buried ourselves with penalties."

Following a weekend of such radically different performances, the Penguins face their biggest game of the season Tuesday at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins will host the first-place New York Rangers, who they trail by 10 points in the Atlantic Division.

"We know it's a huge game," Staal said. "We have to get off to a better start. We just have to play better."

Scoring summary

First period

Sabres, 1-0 (0:52): C Jason Pominville jammed the puck into Brent Johnson's pads before gathering the rebound and lifting the puck over Johnson.

Sabres, 2-0 (4:16): C Derek Roy skated around D Brooks Orpik before depositing a backhand shot past Johnson.

Second period

Sabres, 3-0 (2:52): C Paul Gaustad received a pass from RW Nathan Gerbe, outskated Paul Martin to the front of the cage and beat Johnson.

Penguins, 3-1 (3:39): C Evgeni Malkin found D Deryk Engelland, who blasted a shot past G Ryan Miller from the center point.

Third period

Penguins, 3-2 (5:05): C Jordan Staal, standing in front of the net, collected RW James Neal's pass and sneaked a backhand shot through Miller.

Sabres, 4-2 (6:10): C Drew Stafford scores on a wraparound play, firing the puck off fallen goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.

Sabres, 5-2 (8:32): D Kris Letang's turnover led to an odd-man rush, which ended with Roy redirecting Pominville's pass past Fleury.

Sabres, 6-2 (16:43): With D Paul Martin down in front of the net, C Tyler Ennis gained possession of the puck in the slot and rammed it past Fleury.

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