The Pittsburgh Penguins’ run at a record-breaking streak is over. Playing without injured star Sidney Crosby, the Penguins fell to the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 to end their 15-game winning streak Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh was attempting to draw within one of the NHL record of 17 consecutive wins set by the 1992-93 Penguins, but looked out of sync and lost for the first time since falling to Carolina 4-1 on Feb. 28.
Kevin Porter scored his first two goals of the season for the Sabres, who won for the first time in five games. Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson also scored as Buffalo sent Pittsburgh to its first loss in more than a month. Ryan Miller made 19 saves on the night he surpassed Dominik Hasek for the most games played by a Sabres goaltender.
Jarome Iginla scored his first goal with the Penguins after coming over in a trade with Calgary last week but it wasn’t nearly enough. Buffalo took a three-goal lead less than 25 minutes into the game to chase Tomas Vokoun, who stopped nine of the 13 shots he faced before being removed early in the second period
Instead of heading to Madison Square Garden today to face the Rangers with a shot at 17 straight, Pittsburgh will be brushing itself off after the Sabres spent three periods dominating play on both ends of the ice.
The Penguins played without Crosby for the first time this season. The NHL’s leading scorer is out indefinitely due to a broken jaw. He was released from the hospital on Tuesday afternoon but the team is offering no timetable on Crosby’s return.
Pittsburgh vowed to press on without its captain, but hardly looked like the juggernaut that outscored opponents 52-26 while ripping through a perfect March. The Penguins tied the second-longest winning streak in league history by playing responsible hockey at both ends of the ice.
Led by Vokoun, Pittsburgh came in riding a club record three consecutive shutouts.
It didn’t take Buffalo long to ensure there wouldn’t be a fourth, beating Vokoun twice in the first period to put Pittsburgh on its heels.
The Penguins had a chance to take the lead early after Mike Weber was hit with a 4-minute penalty for boarding and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Instead Porter scored the first goal allowed by the Penguins in 218:48 of game time following a bizarre sequence in which Iginla broke his stick trying a slap shot from the point, leading to a breakout by the Sabres. Iginla, scrambling back without his stick, managed to take the puck away from a Buffalo player using only his skate and direct it to teammate Matt Niskanen.
Rather than move the puck to the boards and out of danger, Niskanen attempted a backhand clearing pass up the middle only to send it directly to Porter, who had little trouble flipping a wrist shot by Vokoun for Porter’s first goal since March 12, 2012 when he played for Phoenix.
Iginla provided a spark later in the power play when he streaked down the slot and took a feed from Evgeni Malkin to beat Miller for a power play goal that tied it at 1. It was the 526th goal of Iginla’s career but the first while playing for a team other than Calgary.
It briefly brought the crowd to life, but Buffalo kept right on attacking. Ott took a drop pass from Jason Pominville and fired a slap shot by Vokoun with less than 2 minutes to go in the first to put Buffalo back in front.
The Penguins had rallied from a deficit four times during their 15-game run. They couldn’t make it five. Hodgson undressed Vokoun for a pretty wraparound goal 2:21 into the second period and Porter made it 4-1 just over a minute later when his shot from the top of the left circle deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Deryk Engelland’s skate and between Vokoun’s legs.
Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Vokoun and was sharp, stopping all 16 shots he faced in his first game since sustaining a minor upper body injury against Montreal last week. Miller was even better, silencing the NHL’s highest scoring offense with relative ease.
Notes: Penguins D Brooks Orpik played in his 622nd career game, breaking Ron Stackhouse’s club mark for games by a defenseman. ... The Penguins begin a home-and-home set with the New York Rangers on tonight at Madison Square Garden ... The Sabres host Ottawa on Friday.