Paul Martin’s shot from the point found twine with 2:04 left in the third period, providing the winning margin in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 victory at Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.
Sidney Crosby set up the Penguins defenseman with a backhand pass from the left circle. Crosby scored a first-period goal and assisted on two more, pushing him within one point of Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek for the NHL scoring lead. Vanek had a goal and an assist himself, giving him 25 points and helping the Sabres string together three goals in a row and take a 3-2 lead early in the third.
The Penguins (11-5-0, 22 points) grabbed a quick 2-0 advantage in the opening 87 seconds of the game. Pascal Dupuis, who finished with two goals and an assist, deflected Brooks Oprik’s slap shot past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller 35 seconds after the opening faceoff, then Crosby tucked his seventh goal into the net during a power play.
But Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson cut the lead to 2-1 by beating Marc-Andre Fleury on a rebound at 6:33 of the first. Vanek redirected Christian Ehrhoff’s feed for his league-leading 12th goal during a 5-on-3 power play for the Sabres (6-9-1, 13 points) midway through the second.
Offseason trade acquisition Steve Ott netted his third as a Sabre at 5:17 of the third, putting Buffalo on top for the first time in the game. However, Kris Letang’s firm backhand pass allowed Dupuis to blast away from the right circle at 7:06, setting up a frantic final 13 minutes at First Niagara Center.
Both Fleury (30 saves) and Miller (31) fended off multiple prime scoring chances until Martin hit the target from 50 feet to push the Pens to their third straight victory. Miller made the save of the game moments before Martin’s strike when he snagged James Neal’s one-timer with his glove hand.
The Penguins host Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia on Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center. Pittsburgh topped the Flyers 3-1 in the season’s first game on Jan. 19.