Malkin, Penguins thrash past Miller, Sabres
Amid a mounting number of injuries and four losses in five games, the Penguins were immersed in trying times. But a welcome adversary awaited Saturday night, and the Penguins wasted little time righting their wrongs.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller is one of the NHL’s top goalies. And the Penguins own him.
The Penguins scored three goals in the first nine minutes, 53 seconds to send Miller to the bench, albeit temporarily, and spark an 8-3 victory at Consol Energy Center. Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick, and his five points tied a career best.
“We dominated in the offensive zone,” he said. “We deserved this one.”
Miller last beat the Penguins on Dec. 8, 2008, when George W. Bush was president and Mellon Arena was the place in town to watch professional hockey.
Miller, who yielded Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal when Canada beat the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics, is 0-5-1 in his past six starts against the Penguins.
Crosby, still sidelined by concussion-like symptoms, was absent for this game. So were several of his banged-up Penguins teammates, including defenseman Paul Martin, who suffered a lower-body injury in Friday night’s loss at Ottawa.
But Malkin stepped up early with two goals, and more help came from less-expected sources, including the Penguins’ newly found Wilkes-Barre/Scranton connection.
Veteran center Jason Williams, recalled from the Penguins’ AHL affiliate earlier in the day, scored his first goal for the Penguins. Rookie defenseman Simon Despres, the club’s top draft pick in 2009 and a Dec. 1 call-up, scored his first goal of the year, coming in his eighth NHL game.
“I have definitely been dreaming about it the last few nights,” he said.
Defenseman Carl Sneep, also called up yesterday, had an assist in his first NHL game, helping on Malkin’s second goal.
“I was definitely very nervous, very excited,” Sneep said. “It was a great day for me.”
All this happened in the first period, as the Penguins took a 4-1 lead.
“We came out flying in the first period, and that’s what we needed,” Despres said.
“We got it from a lot of different areas, from the score sheet but also in playing the way we need to play,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
In contrast to Miller’s troubles, the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury became the fourth-youngest goalie (27 years, 19 days) to win 200 games since the 1967-68 expansion season. “It took a little longer than I wished,” he said, referring to his recent struggles.
Miller, who was lifted for Jhonas Enroth, returned to start second period. The Penguins welcomed the news with James Neal’s team-leading 18th goal after just 53 seconds. Near the end of the period, defenseman Deryk Engelland, hardly a scoring machine, sent in a wrist shot that should have been an easy save. But Miller let it escape between his legs for Engelland’s second goal of the season.
Enroth replaced Miller to start the third period.
After Buffalo made it 6-3, Malkin scored his 15th goal — capping his seventh career hat trick — on the power play with 8:15 remaining when he fired his rebound through Enroth’s legs. Less than two minutes later, Malkin got his second assist on a nifty drop pass to Chris Kunitz, who scored goal No. 11.
Notes: Center Jordan Staal (undisclosed injury) missed his second straight game. Defensemen Chris Letang and Zbynek Michalek (concussions) did not play. They have missed nine straight games. … Right winger Craig Adams left the game in the second period with a “lower-body” injury.
Penguins, 1-0 (2:17): C Jason Williams blasted a slap shot from the right point while on the rush that slipped through G Ryan Miller’s stick side.
Penguins, 2-0 (6:07): D Simon Despres scored his first NHL goal when he received a pass from LW Tyler Kennedy and one-timed a blast from the right circle that beat Miller.
Penguins, 3-0 (9:43): C Evgeni Malkin took a pass from LW Chris Kunitz, cut against the grain and into the slot before burying a wrist shot to Miller’s glove side.
Sabres, 3-1 (12:55): LW Thomas Vanek used D Brooks Orpik as a screen while on a rush and beat G Marc-Andre Fleury to the glove side from the slot.
Penguins, 4-1 (17:30): D Carl Sneep shot a puck up the right-wing boards, and RW James Neal interfered with D Jordan Leopold, allowing Malkin to receive the pass in full flight. Malkin beat G Jhonas Enroth between the legs with a backhand shot.
Penguins, 5-1 (0:53): Malkin faked a shot, then delivered a pass to RW James Neal, who fired a one-timer from a bad angle that beat Miller to the short side.
Penguins, 6-1 (17:54): D Deryk Engelland took a pass from RW Arron Asham, skated down the left wing and beat Miller between the legs with a wrist shot.
Sabres, 6-2 (8:49): C Luke Adam gathered a puck from a scrum in the slot and ripped a wrist shot over Fleury’s glove, off the cross bar and in.
Sabres, 6-3 (10:13): C Paul Gaustad made a move around Sneep on a 2-on-1 and flicked a shot past Fleury.
Penguins, 7-3 (11:43): Malkin gathered his own rebound and shot between Enroth’s legs for his seventh-career hat trick.
Penguins, 8-3 (13:39): Malkin had a shot rejected but managed to locate the loose puck and send a drop pass to Kunitz, who buried a high wrist shot.
Night of milestones
>> Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his 200th career win.
>> Forward Pascal Dupuis tallied his 300th career point
>> Defenseman Brooks Orpik recorded his 100th career point
>> Playing in his first game, defenseman Carl Sneep got his first assist
>> Defenseman Simon Despres scored his first NHL goal