Penguins roll past Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The scariest part of the Penguins’ 6-1 victory Saturday in Buffalo wasn’t the final score. It also wasn’t Sidney Crosby matching a career high with five assists or Kris Letang matching a career best with four points or that the Penguins have won seven consecutive games.
It was this:
“We are still a work in progress,” Letang said. “New coaches, new system. Every night we have to focus.”
The Penguins are dominating the NHL and had no problem with the Sabres, toying with one of the league’s worst teams for a second consecutive Saturday night. But they insist they are far from peaking.
The Penguins didn’t take Buffalo for granted even though the Sabres have been anemic, scoring 18 goals in 16 games.
“It doesn’t matter who you play,” said right wing Patric Hornqvist, who scored two goals and leads the team with nine. “All of these teams are good, and we’re not going to take anyone lightly.
“We know we aren’t good enough yet. We know we have to get better.”
Statistically speaking, the Penguins are in their own league. Consider:
• Crosby leads the NHL in scoring with 24 points in 13 games.
• The Penguins scored twice on the power play and lead the league with 21 power-play goals, converting a league-best 37.5 percent of their chances.
• The Penguins killed all three Buffalo power plays and haven’t permitted a short-handed goal in their past 10 games, a streak of 37 consecutive penalty kills.
• The Penguins own the NHL’s best record (10-2-1) and the best road record (5-0-1), and they have scored the league’s most goals (55) and most goals per game (4.23).
• They own the NHL’s best goal-differential at plus-28, 12 goals better than Tampa Bay.
Still, they seemed unsatisfied in the visitor’s locker room despite outshooting Buffalo, 39-21.
“We did a good job of executing some plays,” Crosby said. “But we’re still trying to figure some things out. The mindset needs be that it’s a new game, and you have to go out and prove yourself again.”
There was no letting up as the Penguins dominated from the opening shift. The Sabres didn’t register a shot on goal until about 14 minutes into the game. In fact, defenseman Tyler Myers’ shot was the Sabres first shot attempt of the game.
“We didn’t want to give Buffalo any hope early,” coach Mike Johnston said. “I thought we took that away in the first 10 minutes.”
Letang scored twice in the first period and came within inches from a hat trick during the opening 20 minutes, as his shot was partially stopped by goaltender Jhonas Enroth before trickling just wide.
The Penguins were effective in even-strength situations, something they addressed before the game.
“We haven’t been creating as much five-on-five (chances) as we want,” Letang said. “Tonight we did.”
Letang and his teammates believe they remain capable of more.
They’ll get the chance — and an opportunity to win an eighth consecutive game — Tuesday as their road trip continues against the New York Rangers.
“All credit to us for how we played tonight,” Hornqvist said. “But we’ll still look to get better.”