Empty Thoughts: Sabres 3, Penguins 1
Observations from the Penguins’ season-opening 3-1 loss to the Sabres.
The Penguins were supposed to be faster, hungrier and more attentive than the squad which meekly lost to the Islanders in a four-game sweep during the first round of the 2019 postseason.
Instead, on the opening night of the 2019-20 season, it almost looked as if they were playing Game 5 of that series.
The Penguins bumbled and staggered through an error-filled season opener versus a hustling, eager Sabres squad. They were charged with a ghastly 17 giveaways on the official scoresheet and were it not for a sturdy 38-save effort by goaltender Matt Murray, it could have been a far uglier affair.
Over the past decade-plus, on the occasions the Penguins have offered flat, lifeless efforts or are in the midst of an ugly skid of games, forward Evgeni Malkin has often held court with reporters and laid out the brutal truth. But usually, that happens with Game 36 of a ho-hum snooze-fest on a Tuesday in December against the Devils in Newark. Not on Game 1 with all the trappings and festivities of a season opener.
Regardless, he laid it down for his teammates to pick it up.
“Exhibition games are done,” Malkin said. “It’s real games right now. We understand every team is dangerous. It doesn’t matter if it’s Buffalo, Washington. We need to learn, how we played tonight and play better for sure. Like 100 percent better.”
• The Sabres led in shots, 41-29.
• Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz led the game with six shots.
• Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and forward Jeff Skinner each led the Sabres with five shots.
• Penguins defenseman Kris Letang led the game with 27:45 of ice time on 28 shifts.
• Defenseman Jake McCabe led the Sabres with 25:11 of ice time on 28 shifts.
• The Sabres had a 32-31 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
• Sabres forward Johan Larsson was 10 for 17 (59 percent).
• Penguins forward Teddy Blueger was 7 for 13 (54 percent).
• McCabe led the game with four blocked shots.
• Defensemen Brian Dumoulin, Jack Johnson, forward Brandon Tanev and Blueger each led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
• The Pengins lost in regulation to the Sabres for the first time since a 4-2 home loss, April 23, 2013. They had been 15-0-3 during that span.
• Forward Jarome Iginla and Chris Kunitz scored for the Penguins that night.
• Sidney Crosby (1,217 points) surpassed forward Jeremy Roenick (1,216) for 42nd place on the NHL’s career scoring list.
• Forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun and Tanev each made their Penguins debuts.
• Galchenyuk logged 15:22 of ice time on 24 shifts and had one shot on two attempts.
• Kahun logged 10:49 of ice time on 15 shifts. He did not record a shot attempt.
• Tanev logged 13:31 of ice time on 21 shifts and had thre shots on three attempts.
• Johnson, who switched from No. 73 to 3, became the 23rd player to wear No. 3 for the Penguins. His predecessors include:
Al MacNeil, John Arbour, Bob Woytowich, Tim Horton, Jack Lynch, Ron Stackhouse, Bennett Wolf, Norm Schmidt, Doug Bodger, Jim Kyte, Jim Paek, Grant Jennings, Sergei Zubov, Stefan Bergkvist, Dan Trebil, Marc Bergevin, Jamie Pushor, Steve Poapst, Mark Eaton, Alex Goligoski, Douglas Murray, Olli Maatta.
• Tanev became the seven player in franchise history to wear No. 13. His predecessors include:
Jim Hamilton, Charlie Simmer, Goligoski, Bill Guerin, Nick Spaling, Nick Bonino.
• Galchenyuk became the 27th player to wear No. 18 for the Penguins. His predecessors include:
George Konik, Wally Boyer, Lowell MacDonald, Ross Lonsberry, Kevin McClelland, Tom Roulston, Craig Simpson, Jimmy Mann, Mark Recchi, Richard Zemlak, Jeff Daniels, Ken Priestlay, Francois Leroux, Garry Valk, Patrick Lebeau, Ryan Savoia,Josef Beranek, Shean Donovan, Steve Webb, Eric Boguniecki, Dominic Moore, Adam Hall, Marian Hossa, Chris Conner, James Neal, Frank Corrado.
• Kahun is the 26th player in franchise history to wear No. 24. His predecessors include:
Gary Swain, Rod Zaine, Tim Horton, Eddie Shack, Jean Guy Lagace, Larry Bignell (playoffs only), Mario Faubert, Don Awrey, Bob Paradise, Pat Hughes, Marc Chorney, Pat Graham, Rob Garner, Ted Bulley, Kevin McCarthy, Roger Belanger, Dwight Mathiasen, Troy Loney, Doug Brown, Ian Moran, Lyle Odelein, Kris Beech, Matt Cooke, Bobby Farnham, Cameron Gaunce.
• Malkin scored the Penguins’ first goal in a season for the second time in his career. His previous came in a 3-2 victory against the Rangers – the last home opener at the Civic Arena – on Oct. 2, 2009.
• Malkin became the eighth player to score mutliple first goals to a season for the Penguins. He joins:
Mark Recchi – 3
Wally Boyer – 2
Mike Bullard – 2
Patric Hornqvist – 2
Rick Kehoe – 2
Tyler Kennedy – 2
Mario Lemieux – 2
Evgeni Malkin – 2
• Murray (43 losses) moved past Al Smith (42) for 14th place on the franchise’s career goaltending loss list.
• Former Penguins forward Conor Sheary scored two goals, including the game-winner at 14:03 of the second period. He sure likes playing his ex team. In four career games against the Penguins, he now has six points (four goals, two assists).
• Highlights (so to speak):
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .