Marc Andre Fleury made 31 saves and was 3-for-3 in the shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins (25-10-1) defeated the Buffalo Sabres (21-10-3) 2-1 Saturday night for their fifth straight win and 25th win of the season.
Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime did his best impression of Ryan Miller making 23 saves and holding the Penguins to one goal in regulation. Kris Letang scored the lone goal for Pittsburgh in the shootout. Sidney Crosby (5-for-6) was stopped by Lalime in the shootout for the first time this season.
The big story of the night was Marc Andre Fleury who earned his 21st win of the season. At the young age of 25, Fleury has established himself as one of the top 5 goaltenders in the game. His development over the past two seasons has him right where the Penguins expected him to be when they drafted him 1st overall in 2003. The difference in Fleury’s game now to even last year is his rebound control. It’s what has made him an elite goaltender in this league as he’s controlling games now.
*In evaluating the Penguins 2-1 win, the Sabres desperately missed Thomas Vanek who did not play. The Sabres were 0-for-8 on the power play and Vanek could have been a difference maker as the Sabres lack another top end player who can take over a game.
*Meanwhile Pittsburgh was 0-for-5 on the power play and with Pittsburgh using Evgeni Malkin at the left point, Alex Goligoski is starting to see his production slow down as he had another pointless night and 0 shots on goal.
However, tonight was a prime example that Goligoski still has some short-comings in the defensive zone and his defensive game has taken a hit of late.
Goligoski had a team high four giveaways on the night and he’s not playing at the level he was prior to being injured. Many of his short-comings in the D-zone is positioning and mental mistakes.
*Maxime Talbot returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games and played a solid defensive game. He made a number of key defensive plays as the winger had 11:07 of ice time.
*Tonight was a good measuring stick for the Sabres, even without Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek. They play the type of game that could give the Penguins some problems in a potential playoff matchup.
They don’t have the scoring depth to keep up with Pittsburgh but they play a puck possession game similar to the Detroit Red Wings that has given the Penguins problems in years past. Not to mention, they have one of the leagues best goaltenders in Ryan Miller.
A very under-rated player on the Sabres roster is center Paul Gaustad. Gaustad was 16-for-25 on draws against Pittsburgh and is making a strong run at earning a spot on Team USA’s Olympic roster.
*Chris Kunitz (4) scored his first goal since returning from injury and he also led the Penguins with 5 shots on goal.
* Pittsburgh will not practice on Sunday and will return to the ice Monday morning for their morning skate as the team hosts the New Jersey Devils.
*Defenseman Mark Eaton left Saturday’s game with a right knee injury. He will be evaluated Sunday morning by team doctors and is expected to have an MRI in the next 48 hours.
*The Toronto Marlies defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-3 at the Wachovia Center Saturday. John Curry made 24 saves in the loss.
Ben Lovejoy 4 (Caputi, Conner), Dustin Jeffrey 8 (Johnson, Lovejoy) and Tim Wallace 9 (Vitale, Lovejoy), scored for Wilkes Barre.