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Insider Only Penguins X’s & O’s: The process won out in come from behind victory over inferior Sabres

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PENGUINS – SABRES X’S & O’s

The Pittsburgh Penguins fell into a 3-0 hole in the first period against a bad Sabres team missing Evander Kane that played the night before.

Sloppy play and mental breakdowns put the Penguins behind in the first period but the process won out in the Penguins getting a 5-4 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Despite trailing 3-0 after twenty minutes, Pittsburgh held an 18-9 lead in shots and had a massive 22-6 edge in shot attempts 5 v 5 after one.

The odds were strong of the Penguins making a game at least of it and they did as Pittsburgh stormed back in the second period with four second period goals.

1:28 Ben Lovejoy (4) | Assists: Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl

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5:55 Conor Sheary (6) | Assist: Sidney Crosby

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18:47 Tom Kuhnhackl (4) (Shorthanded) | Assists: Matt Cullen, Kris Letang

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19:11 Nick Bonino (7) (Shorthanded) | Assist: Carl Hagelin

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“We’re a good enough team that if we put our minds to it we can climb back in it,” said head coach Mike Sullivan.

A positive for the Penguins were the secondary contributions with goals from Lovejoy, Sheary and Kuhnhackl. “We’re getting different people at different times stepping up and helping us win,” Sullivan said.

Pittsburgh out-shot Buffalo 46-30 in the game, including a 62-27 edge in shot attempts 5 v 5.

Trusting the process won out against a much inferior opponent on a night the Penguins were playing with fire.

LETANG PLAYS 35:14

With the Penguins surge, things are surely setting up for Kris Letang to be one of the three Norris Trophy Finalists. At least it should be.

Letang played 35:14 in the win, the third most minutes any player has played this season. He had an assist, 8 shots on goal and scored his 21st career shootout goal.

The advance stats were off the charts tonight, on the ice for 44 shot attempts, just 14 against.

Sullivan was signing the praises of Letang afterwards in what also looked like an attempt to start putting the Norris Trophy talk out there without actually saying it.

“He is one of the most elite defensemen this league has,” Sullivan said of Letang. “We’ve relied on him a lot in key situations. He’s a great skater, his fitness level is off the charts. He’s a tremendous competitor. I honestly think he doesn’t get the recognition in the hockey world that he deserves.”

BREAKING DOWN PENGUINS LAPSES DEFENSIVELY

The Penguins falling into a 3-0 deficit had nothing to do with overlooking the Buffalo Sabres from a work ethic standpoint. You don’t come out of the first with a +16 edge in shot attempts 5 v 5 if that’s the case.

The Penguins, though, played dangerous hockey in the first and again in the third at times.

Down 1-0, Trevor Daley was victimized with a bad turnover at the point on the power play and despite having a 2-on-1 advantage in bodies for a loose puck on the boards at center ice, Ryan O’Reilly won the puck battle from Daley and a back checking Phil Kessel, leading to the shorthanded goal and a 2-0 Sabres lead.

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Buffalo’s third and fourth goals in the game were factors of mental breakdowns by the Penguins in their rotation defensively.

Jake McCabe’s backdoor goal with a 1:02 left in the first period saw a breakdown by Carl Hagelin off a faceoff in a 4-on-4 situation.

Matt Cullen lost the faceoff and Pittsburgh had the play defended properly at first. The Penguins normally play man-to-man in 4-on-4 play. The points are on Cullen and Hagelin. Lovejoy has Eichel in the slot but as he over-pursues up high, Hagelin doesn’t rotate quick enough and is burned for the goal.

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Hagelin’s at fault on the goal for losing his point man but if you’re Mike Sullivan or Jacques Martin, you surely don’t want Lovejoy leaving net-front area that wide open like Lovejoy did.

For Lovejoy, he got the big goal to get Pittsburgh back in the game  but it was a rough night for him defensively.

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Following the Sabres imploding in the second period, they got life seconds into the third as Marcus Foligno beat Lovejoy wide to draw a penalty 26 seconds in.

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Here the Penguins on the PK get caught collapsing to the right side and Bogosian sneaks in.

Buffalo out-shot Pittsburgh 12-11 in the third period and Matt Murray had to come up with three or four excellent saves in the period. Among them was a beautiful glove side on Marcus Foligno with a wide open attempt in front. He then stopped Jack Eichel on a breakaway in overtime. Murray lacked a quality start but showed again the ability to come up with timely saves in pressure situations.

When you factor in the Penguins pretty much won this game with two shorthanded goals in 24 seconds, something of a very low probability, these games where the Penguins make themselves vulnerable with poor starts, keeps seeing them come up on the winning side. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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