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A breath of fresh air: Buffalo’s hot start pays off

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Sabres exemplify near-perfect game against Penguins.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Score: Buffalo 5 | Pittsburgh 2

Shots: BUF 26 | PIT 44

Buffalo Goal Scorers: Zemgus Girgensons (11), Sam Reinhart (22), Jack Eichel (34, 35), Jeff Skinner (12)

Pittsburgh Goal Scorers: Evgeni Malkin (19, 20)

Plus-1: Early Lead

The Sabres arrived on the ice ready to go, which was evident when they scored 14 seconds into the opening period. A nice pass from Kyle Okposo to Zemgus Girgensons in front of the net for a quick shot gave Buffalo an early lead to start the game off right. Just a few minutes later, Sam Reinhart would make it 2-0 after a turnover by Kris Letang near the blue line. Reinhart now has 50 points on the season.

Halfway through the opening period, on their first power play, Buffalo widened the gap even more with a beautiful shot by Jack Eichel - who was left wide open by Pittsburgh - to make it 3-0.

Later on, Eichel would strike again with another goal in the third period and, in the words of Rick Jeanneret, “Yep! That’s monster Jack, alright!”

Plus-2: Thank you, Miller

Exactly 13 years ago to the day, the infamous Sabres-Senators brawl took place, which began in retaliation of Chris Drury getting flattened on the ice. The team did not tolerate their captain getting hurt and as many may remember, one of the best brawls in the team’s history ensued.

Fast forward to today: while it was nowhere near the Drury hit, Marcus Johansson was slammed down onto the ice by winger Patric Hornqvist’s elbow and Colin Miller came to stick up for his teammate, a move we have not seen from this team in several years (remember Ryan Miller getting run by Milan Lucic?). After getting in Evgeni Malkin’s face, Miller made sure to send a message to Hornqvist personally when he threw him down on the ice and took a two-minute penalty for roughing. Was that worth two minutes in the box? Absolutely.

Plus-3: Skinner, is that you?!

Just over five minutes into the third period, Johansson completed a neat pass to Jeff Skinner, who redirected it five-hole into the net (finally!) to make it 4-1 in favor of the visiting team. It would be Skinner’s first goal since December 2nd and perhaps the goal he needed to break his drought and gain momentum for the remainder of the season. Better late than never, eh?

Final Thoughts:

This was Buffalo’s third straight win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1981 - and a well-earned one at that. Additionally, while some may have argued to sit Carter Hutton, it turned out to work in the Sabres’ favor to play him. The goaltender stopped 42 of 44 shots in a great game against a tough team.

Buffalo will look to make it two in a row against the Winnipeg Jets at home tomorrow with puck drop at 3:00 PM.