Penguins by Period: Evgeni Malkin scores on power play but Sabres, Sheary answer
The Sabres’ last-minute goal in the second period put the Penguins in a two-goal deficit that appeared to take its toll.
The Penguins looked listless in the third period.
First, they gave up another breakaway, only to see Kyle Okposo shoot high and wide right. And the fans were getting restless.
Never was that more evident than on their first of three power plays, when Jake Guentzel flipped a no-look backhand from the left corner along the boards – nowhere near Kris Letang – and watched the puck sail through the neutral zone.
This offseason, the Penguins pushed the addition-by-subtraction narrative after trading Phil Kessel and acquiring young forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev and Dominik Kahun. But none of the newcomers made much of an impact in a 3-1 loss.
The Sabres outshot the Penguins, 41-29, as the Penguins had 17 giveaways and went 1-for-5 on the power play.
This looked like a continuation of their first-round series sweep against the New York Islanders, with lackadaisical puckhandling and defensive lapses leading to the go-ahead goals.
And no momentum to build a comeback.
Coming off a disappointing season, Evgeni Malkin promised to be a different player this season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
What showed from the start – even if didn’t show up on the score sheet in the first period – was that Malkin was absolutely flying around the ice at PPG Paints Arena.
Just like old times.
In the second period, it showed up on the score sheet.
The goal came on the power play, after Kris Letang fed Malkin at the top of the left circle. As Malkin drifted to the dot, he used Patrick Hornqvist’s screen to sneak a short-side wrist shot past Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton to tie it at 1-1 at 5:50 of the second period.
— NHL (@NHL) October 4, 2019
MALKAMANIA RETURNS TO THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH! pic.twitter.com/BAdvqvTkXD
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 4, 2019
Yes, from Phil Kessel’s favorite spot.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Malkin started strong in the opener, especially after he had a goal and two assists in the 7-6 victory over the Washington Capitals in the first game last season.
Malkin was fantastic from the first period, where he fed Jared McCann from the top right circle for a shot in the slot that Hutton stopped with his left shoulder. Later, Malkin and new linemate Alex Galchenyuk showed slick stick work before Malkin’s shot was stopped by Hutton. And Malkin had a shot sail wide right of the net on the power play.
It was only a matter of time before Malkin had his moment.
But Buffalo regained the lead on another goal by Connor Sheary, this one from point-blank after a Colin Miller shot went off Matt Murray’s pads and the stick of Casey Mittestadt in the crease for a 2-1 lead at 14:03. The Sabres struck again with 43.8 seconds left, when defenseman Rasmus Dahlin flipped one past Murray to make it 3-1.
Call it the Curse of Conor Sheary.
The diminutive Buffalo Sabres winger has a habit of torturing his past employer as much as he did his current one when playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sheary scored the first goal in the season opener Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 5:23 of the first period.
Conor Sheary strikes gold! 🚨
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 3, 2019
He now has five points (three goals, two assists) in four games against the Penguins since they traded him to Buffalo in June 2018. Sheary had eight points (five goals, three assists) in as many games the Sabres while with the Penguins.
The goal came after Jake Guentzel committed a turnover as he collided with Patric Hornqvist while attempting to clear the puck along the halfwall. Casey Mittelstadt slipped the puck to Sheary past defenseman Brian Dumoulin for the opening tally.
It was the Sabres’ 10th shot, as they dominated possession in the first half of the first period.
The Penguins, however, had their moments.
Matt Murray stopped 15 shots in the period, none bigger than turning back Zemgus Girgensons on a shorthanded breakaway after Justin Schultz overplayed the puck at the blue line on the Penguins’ first power play in the final five minutes.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .