Penguins lose lackluster season opener at home to Sabres | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins lose lackluster season opener at home to Sabres

Seth Rorabaugh
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel play against the Sabres in the first period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist (left) and Jake Guentzel (background, right) defend Jake McCabe during a play in the first period in the season opener against the Sabres on Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
puck stops here Penguins goaltender Matt Murray makes a save on the Sabres’ Jimmy Vesey in the first period Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins Defenseman Kris Letang can’t cut off the pass to the Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres’ Marcus Johansson skates away from the Penguins’ Erik Gudbranson in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins celebrate Evgeni Malkin’s goal against the Sabres in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson defends on the Sabres’ Sam Reinhart in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin beats Penguins goaltender Matt Murray in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres’ Conor Sheary’s shot beats Penguins goaltender Matt Murray in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Buffalo’s Conor Sheary celebrates his second-period goal.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres’ Sam Reinhart looks to redirect the puck as Penguins goaltender gets a piece of the shot in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin beats Penguins goaltender Matt Murray in the second period Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.

The Penguins entered the season with the potential of returning to the days when they were the faster, more dynamic team on the ice.

And Thursday, they saw one of the key players from their two most recent Stanley Cup championship teams generate ample offense as he dashed and darted all over the ice.

The only problem was it was Conor Sheary.

The former Penguins winger scored two goals, including the winner, and led the Sabres to a 3-1 victory against the Penguins, who bumbled and staggered their way through a gaffe-filled season-opener at PPG Paints Arena.

“We (were) not good enough,” forward Evgeni Malkin said. “They (were) hungry. They played so much faster. I think we liked played only 30 minutes. It’s young guys, a young league right now. We need to play faster, we need to play hungry. How we played tonight, we need to change.”

The Penguins were hoping to alter how they looked during their feeble four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders during the first round of last year’s postseason. Instead, it almost appeared as if they were playing Game 5 of that series.

The Sabres struck first at 5 minutes, 23 seconds of the first period. After Penguins forward Jake Guentzel fumbled a puck on his own right half-wall, Sabres forward Casey Mittlestadt emerged with it and fed a pass from above the right circle to Sheary below the right dot. Sheary lifted a wrister which fluttered past the blocker of goaltender Matt Murray.

The Penguins tied the score at 5:50 of the second period with a power-play goal. Defenseman Kris Letang controlled the puck at the right point, surveyed the offensive zone and moved a pass to Malkin above the left circle. Moving towards the dot, Malkin gripped and ripped a wrister which glanced off of Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen’s stick and past the left leg of goaltender Carter Hutton. Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist provided a screen on the sequence. Assists went to Letang and Sidney Crosby.

Buffalo went up by two late in the second at the 19:16 mark. Off a pass from center Sam Reinhart, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin got in deep on the right wing, fended off Letang and lifted a backhander past the glove of Murray on the near side.

Though the Penguins generated their lone goal on the power play, they failed to fully capitalize with the man advantage as they were ineffective with three opportunities during the third period alone. With six minutes of power-play time — including a six-on-four sequence with goaltender Matt Murray pulled for an extra attacker — they had only four shots on net.

“Every power play, you need to play hard,” Malkin said. “You need to work. If they give us a chance to play the power play for two minutes, play hungry with the puck in the corner. Play right. Our breakout, nobody wants the puck. We just kicked it around, like (Letang) had the puck, but nobody supported him.”

Sheary provided his current employer plenty of support as evidenced by his two goals.

“You just want to prove to people that you can still play,” Sheary said. “You kind of get the feeling that someone doesn’t want you when they trade you, and I think I took that to heart.”

The Penguins could have used a bit more heart to open their season.

“Overall, for 60 minutes, they wanted it more than us,” Letang said. “And I think that’s where we lost it.”

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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