Penguins rally for four consecutive third-period goals to win 6th game in a row

The Penguins, to a man, vow that falling behind after two periods isn't a staple of their game plan, and there's no reason to doubt them.

But if it isn't, it should be.

For most teams, living on the edge is an invitation to disaster. For the Penguins, it's a launching pad.

Witness last night, when they spotted Buffalo a 2-1 lead at the second intermission then, in the kind of comeback that has become almost numbingly familiar, ran off four unanswered goals during the final eight-plus minutes of regulation to earn a 5-2 victory.

The Penguins have been behind at the second intermission nine times in their first 17 games and won six of those. That matches their victory total in such games from last season, when they went 6-20-3 when behind after two periods.

"That's not our plan, but it just proves the resiliency of this group," left winger Matt Cooke said. "We believe in the way we play.

"A lot of times, we're behind because we don't play that way, but, if we play the way our system is designed, we're going to be successful."

Which they've been a lot the past few weeks.

The victory was the Penguins' sixth in a row, raised their record to 11-4-2 and kept them within four points of the first-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins have three games in hand on New York.

The Penguins had no shortage of contributors against Buffalo, but no one did more than Evgeni Malkin. He scored one goal and assisted on three others to raise his league-leading points total to 30.

"Thanks to my teammates," Malkin said. "They pass to me and score on my passes."

A season's worth
Numbers for Jordan Staal in the Penguins' past four games:Category
Shots on goal
Goals scored

Yeah, funny how that often works for the linemates of really talented guys.

Buffalo, coming off a 6-1 loss at home to Columbus Friday, started strong -- "They came out really hard the first 10 minutes," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said -- and got the only goal of the first period when Jason Pominville beat Marc-Andre Fleury from the right side of the crease at 8:14.

Malkin got that goal back for the Penguins during a power play at 11:07 of the second, but Thomas Vanek restored the Sabres' lead during a man-advantage 45.4 seconds before the period ended.

Vanek's goal could have been a back-breaker for most teams. For the Penguins, it wasn't even a speed bump.

Although Buffalo had allowed just one power-play goal in 32 shorthanded situations during its previous seven road games, the Penguins got their second of the evening at 11:43 of the third to pull even again.

Sidney Crosby had the puck on the right side and threw a cross-ice feed to defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had moved in from the left point. Goligoski took the pass and beat goalie Ryan Miller from below the dot.

"That goal was huge for us," center Jordan Staal said.

The Penguins' third line manufactured the winner at 15:27 as Cooke, who was positioned behind the goal line, slid a pass in front to Staal, who buried the shot behind Miller.

"It didn't take much to put it in," Staal said.

Ruslan Fedotenko added some insurance 62 seconds later, converting a Malkin set-up during a three-on-two break, and Staal closed out the scoring with an empty-netter at 19:36, his seventh goal during the Penguins' winning streak.

"When this team gets momentum, it's kind of scary," Staal said.

The Penguins were gaining momentum as time ran down, while the Sabres appeared to have been drained of anything resembling energy or emotion.

"They looked pretty tired the whole third period," Orpik said.

So did the goal judge who was working in the Sabres' end then.

And while the Penguins profess to realize they can't expect to continue to wipe out late-game deficits -- "We really need a better start," Staal said. "At some point, it might catch up to us"-- the composure they display when the stakes and stress are high should not be overlooked.

"We don't panic," coach Michel Therrien said. "That's the main thing. If we play our game ... we don't want to change anything."

Especially the outcome.

Dave Molinari can be reached at . First Published November 16, 2008 5:00 AM


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