Penguins squander 2-goal lead; Wasted chances result in setback

Sure, the Penguins hated to waste a goal by Kris Letang. After all, he hadn't scored any in the previous 36 games.

Same with a two-goal contribution from Ruslan Fedotenko, who hadn't had one of those in the better part of a year.

But what they really hated squandering -- and what led directly to their 4-3, come-from-ahead loss to Buffalo at Mellon Arena last night -- was a five-on-three power play they had for a full two minutes in the middle of the second period.

They were holding a 3-2 lead at the time, and another goal could have expanded their comfort zone a bit.

But the Penguins (15-8-4) managed to generate just three shots on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller during those 120 seconds, and by the time Buffalo got back to even-strength, it was ready to take control of the game.

It would be a few more minutes before the Sabres tied it -- and nearly a full period before Thomas Vanek would get the winner -- but make no mistake, the Penguins lost any real chance of winning when they failed to exploit that two-man advantage.

"Anytime there's a five-on-three, you need a goal, as a team," center Jordan Staal said. "That was deflating a bit, as well."

Perhaps they should be getting used to their power play yielding little more than frustration, though. They were 1 for 8 last night and are 5 for 43 on it in the past 10 games.

"It's definitely a frustrating time right now," Staal said.

Which is no surprise, coach Michel Therrien said, given the passive approach they take playing with the extra man.

"Our power play was not good," he said. "We tried to be cute. No traffic in front. We ask people to go in front of the net. They don't want to go. So we need the perfect shot."

They didn't get enough of them and thus have lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Oct. 28-30.

Fedotenko opened the scoring at 9:37 of the opening period, as he broke down the left side of the slot and steered a Evgeni Malkin feed -- one that appeared to be intended for Petr Sykora, but which slid past him -- past Miller.

Derek Roy capitalized on a Brooks Orpik turnover 90 seconds later to tie the score, as he picked off an Orpik pass in the neutral zone, then carried the puck into the attacking zone and snapped a wrist shot past Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin from inside the right circle.

Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy, making his NHL debut, preserved the tie with an excellent defensive play with 5 1/2 minutes to go before the first intermission, picking off a Nathan Gerbe pass at the right edge of the crease to thwart a two-on-one break with Drew Stafford.

Fedotenko rewarded Lovejoy about 45 seconds later by putting the Penguins back in front. He took a cross-ice feed from Malkin and beat Miller from the inner edge of the right circle for his seventh goal of the season, 250th point in the NHL and first two-goal game since Feb. 14, when he was playing for the New York Islanders.

Letang broke out of his slump during a two-man advantage 91 seconds into the second period, as he took a feed from Sidney Crosby and beat Miller from just above the left hash.

Crosby's assist extended his scoring streak to seven games.

Buffalo got back to within one when Ales Kotalik punched a loose puck over the goal line at 6:40, after Sabourin appeared to lose sight of it, and a few minutes later, the Penguins failed to take advantage of their extended five-on-three.

"After 3-1, we were horrible," Therrien said. "We gave them the game."

Daniel Paille capped a Sabres flurry by throwing in the tying goal at 14:49 and Vanek got the deciding goal at 6:13 of the third, swatting in a Jason Pominville feed from the left side of the crease for his league-leading 20th of the season.

"We just kind of let them back into the game and lost," Fedotenko said. "We just need to work on playing with the lead."

And with a two-man advantage, as well.

Dave Molinari can be reached at . First Published December 9, 2008 5:00 AM


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