Crosby thrives in Buffalo again as Penguins win, 4-3

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sidney Crosby doesn't mind sitting down and talking hockey for a length of time with just about anyone who is interested.

Does a good job of outlining how and why things happen in games, too.

But the Penguins prolific center can't explain why he has had so much success at First Niagara Center and against Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.

Crosby had a goal and two assists -- including an assist on Paul Martin's winning third-period goal -- in a 4-3 win Sunday against the Sabres. That catapulted the Penguins into first place in the Eastern Conference with 22 points through 16 games.

In road games against Buffalo, Crosby has eight goals, 20 points in 13 games and has at least one point in all 13.

"OK, well [knocks wood on his locker stall], I don't know if I want to talk about it," a grinning Crosby said after his latest big game as a visitor in Buffalo.

"It's been good. I think the games are always so fast. I think you always expect a fast game, and you have to prepare yourself to get up and down the ice. For whatever reason, I've been able to put some points up. It's great ice here. That's all I can say."

Not every game has been against Miller, who fell to 6-7-1 with the loss, but most have.

In the snowy 2008 Winter Classic, Crosby beat Miller in a shootout to clinch a 2-1 Penguins win. At the gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Crosby scored on Miller in overtime to lift Canada past the United States.

No particular reason for that, Crosby insisted.

"No. I've just been able to score," he said. "That one [Sunday], I think it goes off their [defenseman] and in. I don't think that's because of Ryan Miller. I got a good bounce. I don't think I do anything differently here or against Ryan than I would anyone else."

Crosby's goal Sunday came from beside the net, appropriately enough, 87 seconds into the first period and gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead. Pascal Dupuis had deflected a Brooks Orpik shot backward between his skates past Miller for a 1-0 lead 35 seconds into the game.

Buffalo scrambled back with three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead.

It took a couple of tries for center Cory Hodgson to score on a rebound of a hard shot by Christian Ehrhoff to make it 2-1 at 6:32 of the second period. Thomas Vanek tied it, 2-2, with a five-on-three power-play goal at 9:16 of the second period.

Steve Ott broke the tie to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead when he took a feed from Nathan Gerbe and flipped the puck past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 5:17 of the third period.

The Penguins, though, came back quickly, 1:49 later, when Dupuis scored from the inner edge of the right circle off of a wow-factor feed from Kris Letang near the far boards to tie it, 3-3, at 7:06 of the third period. Letang had to move down the wall and spin away from a backchecker to be able to get the pass away.

"An awesome pass by [Letang] all the way across [the offensive zone]," Dupuis said. "I don't know he can do that flat on my blade, but it was an awesome play."

Crosby also got an assist for threading a pass to Letang.

On Martin's winner, on a shot from the top of the slot with 2:04 left in regulation, he got to a rolling puck.

"Even before I was going to shoot it, it was kind of on end," Martin said. "I came in off the bench for a change. I think Sid was trying to pass it. It kind of found its way toward me. I kind of put it to the net and it went in -- let it go, see what happens."

On the shot, Miller's view was blocked by Ehrhoff.

"I'm in front screening [Miller], and he doesn't have a chance on that," Ehrhoff said. "Just frustrating."

That's not exactly how Miller put it.

"It's just a [expletive] way to lose," he said. "I don't understand ... Your guard has to be up at all time. You get back into the game ... broken play to seal it for them. Not what we need to be doing right now."

Miller can put some of the blame on Crosby, who has seven goals, 24 points to rank among the NHL leaders. Crosby has been getting points against other teams and goalies -- he has two goals, seven points over the past three games -- but he certainly does some damage in Buffalo and against Miller.

"Every player has places where they seem to get more points and teams they get more points [against] and sometimes even goalies they get more goals on," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don't have any explanation for that. Those are the numbers. They're good ones against Buffalo and Miller."

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For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter: @pgshelly.


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