The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their final pre-season game tonight in Buffalo by a score of 4-3. With the loss, the Penguins finished the pre-season at 1-3-2, with the only win coming in Game #2 against Montreal. Sidney Crosby, Petr Sykora, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, Alain Nasreddine, Mike Weaver, and Kris Letang were all scratches for the game (presumed healthy scratches).
The Buffalo Sabres got on the board first at 15:53 of the first period on a power play goal by D. Roy with assists from T. Vanek and M. Afinogenov. At the time, Mark Eaton was serving a 2-minute minor for charging. It was the only goal of the first period with the Sabres outshooting the Penguins 8-5.
In the second period, both teams picked up a goal. Buffalo struck first on an even strength goal from D. Kalinen with assists by T. Vanek and D. Stafford at 4:32. The Penguins battled back to within a point on a short-handed goal by Maxime Talbot at 12:10 from Colby Armstrong, while Jarrko Ruutu was in the box on an interference call. The Penguins outshot the Sabres in the second 7-4.
In the third period, Pittsburgh picked up the next goal on an even strength attempt by Colby Armstrong at 1:47. Jordan Staal and Maxime Talbot each picked up an assist on the marker. Pittsburgh then took the lead at 8:28 on a power-play goal by Sergei Gonchar, with assists by Ryan Whitney and Erik Christensen. Unofrtunately, Buffalo took over the remainder of the game scoring the tying point on a power-play goal by J. Pominville (from D. Roy and M. Afinogenov), while Maxime Talbot was in the box on a tripping call. The game winner came on an even strength chance by T. Connolly from D. Kalinen and J. Hecht. The Sabres outshot the Penguins 12-5 in the final frame, and had the edge in shots overall at 24-17.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for the Penguins and had some tremendous saves throughout the game. However, the lack of quality defensive zone coverage by the Penguins allowed too many goals on net, particularly in the latter half of the third period. Power play chances were even for both teams with 6 penalties and 12 minutes a side. The Penguins had a much better showing on the face-off tonight, winning 55% of the draws. Maxime Talbot had a goal and an assist tonight and picked up the game’s 2nd star. Colby Armstrong also had a goal and an assist.
And with that, the Penguins complete their pre-season, albeit less successfully than they might have hoped. Nonetheless, the purpose of pre-season is to assess the team’s prospects, work the lines, and get back into game form. Hopefully the Penguins can apply the right team and line adjustments to enable them to bolt out of the gate early in the regular season. I was excited by the level of play that I witnessed in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal in the pre-season, particularly Malkin who really looks ready to turn it up a notch. Hopefully he can deliver and be consistent throughout the whole season. I am concerned by the current state of readiness of the Penguins defensive corps. Hopefully they can pull it together before too many regular season games come and go.
Tune in next week as the Penguins drop the puck in their season opener at the Carolina Hurricanes at 7PM on Friday, Oct 5, 2007. NHLPens.com will be hosting an audio feed, scoreboard and live chat at the “In Game” room. It is a fun way to follow the game with other fans if you can’t be there in person. Check back and look for “In Game” links on game day. Also, be sure to check back daily for updated articles and forum postings on your favorite NHL Team, the Pittsburgh Penguins!