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Sabres Get the Bounces to Beat the Penguins

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Buffalo Sabres Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins poured on 41 shots at home Saturday night, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stood strong and the Buffalo Sabres squeaked out a win. The 3-1 victory marks only the second time this season the Sabres won back-to-back games.

It was a wild night, as the Penguins had two goals overturned.

After Alex Tuch scored on a deep wrister, Drew O’Connor scored on a spectacular Sidney Crosby touch pass. The Sabres won the ensuing challenge, as Crosby was deemed offsides on the play. Not long after, Jake Guentzel tipped a Crosby shot past Luukkonen. The challenge for goaltender interference also went in Buffalo’s favor, and the score remained 1-0.

Pittsburgh was eventually able to tie the game on a two-man advantage as Rickard Rakell tipped the puck in backdoor. The Sabres responded late in the third period with a Zemgus Girgensons chip shot and sealed the game with a Rasmus Dahlin empty-netter.

Impact Player

Without a doubt, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was the best player in the game. Luukkonen stoned the Penguins on three clear-cut breakaways in the game. His 3.28 goals-saved above expected per Evolving-Hockey tops Devon Levi’s 2.65 from Thursday night in Montreal.

Getting quality goaltending seems to be a new January trend, and one the Sabres really need if they’re going to make a second-half push.

The Difference

With due respect to Luukkonen, Don Granato and the coaching staff’s reviewing process made the difference in this game. By getting two calls overturned, Pittsburgh was clearly frustrated and continued to pepper shots on net from everywhere and anywhere.

It was a game that the Penguins deserved to win, but the Sabres need to steal games like this – especially against Eastern Conference opponents ahead of them in the standings.

Needs Improvement

Buffalo will need to generate more consistent offense against quality opponents going forward. The Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Eric Robinson line was their only effective forward line tonight, which can’t happen if the Sabres are looking to climb out of the standings hole they’ve dug.

What’s Next

The Sabres will spend the majority of the remainder of the month at home, beginning with the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday. The Kraken are currently on the fringe of the playoff picture out west, with 41 points on the season.

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