BUFFALO, N.Y. – Marc-Andre Fleury might not be able to explain his success in the shootout, but the numbers tell the story.
Fleury made 31 saves and stopped three more tries in the shootout and Kris Letang scored the only goal in the tiebreaker in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh improved to 6-0 in shootouts this season thanks in large part to Fleury, who has allowed just one goal to 19 shooters. He preserved the bonus point when he stopped Drew Stafford’s attempt in the final round after Letang scored in the first round.
“He’s tough to beat in practice, and it shows in the games,” captain Sidney Crosby said about Fleury, who moved to 10-1-1 since Nov. 21. “He doesn’t like the puck going in, period. He makes it tough on teams, and tonight he bailed us out a number of times.”
Crosby, who came in having connected on all five of his shootout attempts, was denied in the second round when Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime closed his pads quick enough to block the try. But that didn’t matter after Fleury easily stopped all three Buffalo shooters to cap a night in which he kept the Penguins in the game after they were outshot by a 20-13 margin in the first 40 minutes.
Pittsburgh also was able to kill five penalties over the final 25 minutes to win for the second straight time in a shootout. The Penguins beat Philadelphia on Thursday night when Letang and Crosby converted.
“If you do a shootout against Marc-Andre in practice, he has kind of a swagger,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’s been outstanding facing some good shooters…and our guys, Letang and Crosby, have been outstanding.”
Chris Kunitz scored in regulation for the Penguins (25-10-1), winners of five straight and 11 of their last 14.
“It was a tough battle,” Fleury said. “They didn’t give us much. They play hard and are a tough team.”
Jason Pominville scored, and Lalime, making just his fourth start of the season in favour of Ryan Miller, finished with 23 saves for the Sabres (21-10-3), who’ve lost two of their last three.
“It was a hard fought game against a real good team,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I liked our game, and I liked the way we competed.”
The Sabres were without high-scoring left wing Thomas Vanek, who missed the game because of soreness in his midsection. They did receive a boost with the return of tough guy Patrick Kaleta, who missed the Sabres’ win over Toronto on Friday night because of a neck/head injury sustained Wednesday night at Ottawa.
Pominville opened the scoring with his eighth of the year with 4:55 left in the first period. After Fleury stopped Clarke MacArthur’s shot from the right circle, Pominville deposited the rebound into an open net from the inner edge of the left circle.
Kunitz tied it with his fourth with 39 seconds remaining in the first, deflecting Crosby’s wrist shot from the left circle.
“They’re one of the top teams and we stuck right with them,” MacArthur said. I think we deserved to win that game.”
NOTES: Pominville scored for the first time in eight games. … Pittsburgh didn’t register its first shot until midway through the first period. … Crosby has six points in his last four games. … Kunitz scored for the first time since Nov. 5, but also missed 13 games since then because of a lower-body injury. … Buffalo is 1-2-3 in its last six at home against Pittsburgh. … The Penguins played the final 30 minutes without D Mark Eaton.