Sheary, a welcome return to the lineup, scores winner vs. Buffalo
March 5, 2017 9:13 PM
Penguins winger Conor Sheary celebrates with Sidney Crosby after scoring the winning goal Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres in the final minutes of the third period at PPG Paints Arena.
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins did not acquire a forward at the NHL trade deadline last week.
But winger Conor Sheary might end up being one of their key “acquisitions” for the stretch run and into the playoffs.
Sheary, in his second game back after missing the entire month of February — 13 games — with an upper-body injury, scored the game-winner in the Penguins’ 4-3 comeback win against Buffalo Sunday afternoon.
The goal was Sheary’s 18th of the season, and first since the injury. He also assisted on Jake Guentzel’s game-tying goal earlier in the third period.
In typical Sheary fashion, he created the goal by using his speed to beat his defender — in this case, Sabres center Sam Reinhart — to the net. Schultz said he was just a split-second away from shooting the puck himself before he heard Sheary, who had gotten a step on Reinhart, yelling for him.
“I just looked over there and he was wide open,” Schultz said. “He did a good job finishing it.”
It didn’t look like a tough finish, and Sheary admitted he had a wide-open net to shoot at. But sometimes, those are the toughest.
“I think I just tried to bear down on my stick as much as I could,” Sheary said. “Almost just redirect it and not try to shoot it in.”
The Penguins are hopeful that goal could jump-start Sheary into a run similar to the one he was on before he got hurt. Prior to sustaining the injury Jan. 31 against Nashville, Sheary had scored nine goals and seven assists in his last 14 games.
“It’s just one game, something to build off,” Sheary said. “Hopefully I can keep it going, but I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can, even after the injury.”
Even if he’s reluctant to ascribe too much meaning to one goal, or one game, Sheary did say he felt more comfortable in his second game back on the ice.
“I think you kind of, once you get more games after the injury, you kind of get your instincts back and you get your stamina back,” he said. “I felt that way tonight.”
Sheary played 14:55 Sunday, nearly a minute-and-a-half more than he did in his first game back against Tampa Bay Friday.
He started the game playing right wing on a line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, the same position he was in against the Lightning. By the end of the game, though, he had shifted back to his more familiar position on Crosby’s left side, with Guentzel opposite him.
Coach Mike Sullivan admitted after the game that, given the chaotic nature of the Penguins’ come-from-behind win, he’s not exactly sure what he’ll do with the line combinations moving forward.
Regardless, though, it’s probably a safe bet that Sheary will remain with Crosby in some form or fashion. The two have played together for 55.1 percent of Crosby’s even-strength minutes this year, making Sheary by far Crosby’s most common winger this season.
“I think we’re finding [our chemistry] again a little bit,” Sheary said. “I think the first game maybe here and there we were a little bit off. When you don’t play together for that long, that happens. I think we’re finding it again.”
Sam Werner: email@example.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.
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