Penguins fall, 4-2, to Buffalo

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Penguins have the kind of power play that can be a real difference-maker, and it was proven again last night.

Which was too bad for them.

For if they had managed to get anything except frustration out of their power play, they might have been able to alter the course of what became a 4-2 loss against Buffalo at HSBC Arena.

But they were failed to score on any of six tries with the extra man, including a two-man advantage that lasted more than a minute and a half. And which probably could have lasted another half-hour without producing a serious scoring chance.

So it didn't matter that they matched the Sabres in shots, 36-36, or that they fared pretty well against one of the league's elite clubs when the teams were playing five aside, especially during the final two periods.

"We didn't get much going [on the power play]," said center Sidney Crosby, who scored both of the Penguins' goals. "When we get those opportunities, we have to score."

Especially when the other team's power play performs the way Buffalo's did, as the Sabres were 2 for 4 with the extra man.

"We have to be plus in special teams if we want to win games," center Maxime Talbot said.

The loss leaves the Penguins 1-4-2 in their past seven games, and 8-7-2 for the season.

While special teams clearly shaped the outcome, Penguins right winger Mark Recchi believes there were other factors at work.

Or, more to the point, not at work.

"We didn't have everybody going, playing with enough desperation in certain areas," he said. "You come on the road against a team like this, you need 20 guys to play hard and do the right things, and it didn't happen."

The Penguins survived a five-on-three disadvantage that lasted 36 seconds early in the opening period, but just five seconds after the first of their two penalties expired, Maxim Afinogenov scored from the bottom of the right circle to put Buffalo in front to stay.

Afinogenov, who had missed the previous five games with a shoulder injury, took a cross-ice feed from Briere and threw the puck past goalie Jocelyn Thibault from the right side.

Sabres goalie Martin Biron preserved the lead with a superb stop on a point-blank backhander by Talbot at 9:58. "The tip of his pad," Talbot said. "I said I had the right move, but, if I had the right move, I would have beaten him."

The Penguins had their two-man advantage for 94 seconds late in the period, but didn't do anything more menacing than pass the puck around the perimeter for most of it.

"When you have a five-on-three for that long, you have to be more effective," Crosby said. "We have to do a better job of getting into prime scoring areas."

Although the Penguins controlled play through the first half of the second period, Thomas Vanek pushed Buffalo's advantage to 2-0 at 9:00. Seconds after Thibault had rejected him from between the left circle and the crease, Vanek tossed in a turning shot from low in the circle for his 13th.

The Penguins' run of four consecutive power plays ended when Crosby was sent off for cross-checking at 10:04. In the spirit of the evening, the streak of wasted chances with the extra man ended 84 seconds later, too.

Chris Drury got what proved to be the winner at 11:28, flipping in a rebound from the right side of the crease to put Buffalo up by three.

Crosby got that goal back at 15:14, as he took a pass from Recchi and beat Biron on the short side from inside the left circle.

With 61 seconds to go in regulation, Crosby made it 3-2 by tossing in a rebound from the right side of the crease for his ninth of the season, but Ales Kotalik scored into an empty net 16 seconds later to give Buffalo its margin of victory.

And to give the Penguins a sense of urgency heading into their game against the New York Rangers tonight at 7:38 at Mellon Arena, because they don't want to lose visual contact with the Eastern Conference playoff field.

"The whole league's tight," Crosby said. "Our division is tight. There are a long of strong teams, and you can't afford to slip up."

Scouting Report

Matchup: New York Rangers at Penguins, 7:38 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.

TV, radio: WPCW, WXDX-FM (105.9).

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Henrik Lundqvist for Rangers.

Penguins: Beat Rangers, 6-5, at Madison Square Garden Oct. 12. ... RW Mark Recchi has 35 goals, 60 assists in 88 career games against Rangers. ... Are 1-1 in second game when playing on consecutive days.

Rangers: Own one of NHL's best road records, 7-4. ... LW Brendan Shanahan has five-game scoring streak. ... Have been outscored, 5-1, during four-on-four situations.

Hidden stat: Lundqvist has faced 19 shots in shootouts this season and stopped all of them.

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Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .


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