Eichel, Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart all beat Tristan Jarry during an early three-goal outburst and Connor Hutton turned away 41 shots as the Sabres earned just their second regulation victory in their last 20 meetings with Pittsburgh. Jeff Skinner picked up his first goal since early December with a pretty deflection in the third period and Eichel’s second goal of the game and 35th of the season gave Buffalo its fourth win in its last five games.
Evgeni Malkin picked up his 19th and 20th goals for Pittsburgh but couldn’t keep the Penguins from getting blown out for the second time in three days. Jarry finished with 21 saves but was under siege in the opening minutes and Pittsburgh never fully recovered. The Penguins have been outscored 9-2 over their last two games after climbing into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a victory over Toronto on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh followed it with a poor performance in a road loss to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, leaving Penguins coach Mike Sullivan fuming about his team’s inattentive defense. Less than 48 hours later, the opening 20 minutes against the Sabres brought more of the same.
Girgensons needed all of 14 seconds to give Buffalo the lead. The Sabres won the opening faceoff and worked the puck into the Pittsburgh zone. Kyle Okposo intercepted a Malkin chip behind the Penguins’ net and fed it in front to a wide open Girgensons, who had little trouble beating a surprised Jarry.
Reinhart doubled Buffalo’s advantage 6:48 into the first, deflecting an attempted stretch pass by Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang then chasing down the puck in the Penguins’ zone for an impromptu breakaway. Reinhart roofed a shot to Jarry’s short side and Pittsburgh was reeling.
Eichel finished off the early flurry with his 34th of the season, a power play goal 10:51 into the first in which the three-time All-Star found himself all alone in the left circle. He collected a pass from Rasmus Ristolainen and whipped a wrist show over Jarry’s right shoulder to make it 3-0.
A frustrated Sullivan called timeout in an effort to get his team to collect itself, but the Penguins never really threatened to get back in the game. Malkin brought Pittsburgh within 3-1 just past the midway point of the second period but Hutton withstood a late push in the second to preserve the two-goal advantage.
When Skinner ended a 22-game scoreless by using his outstretched stick to deflect a centering feed by Marcus Johansson past Jarry 5:39 into the third, the Sabres were on their way to only their second regulation win over the Penguins since Oct. 5, 2013.
NOTES: Suspended Buffalo defenseman Zach Bogosian’s five-year tenure with the Sabres is over. Bogosian cleared waivers on Saturday, clearing the way for Buffalo to terminate his contract, which would make him a free agent. The 29-year-old needs to sign with a team by Monday’s trade deadline to be eligible to play in the postseason. … Buffalo scratched D John Gilmour and C Evan Rodrigues. Pittsburgh scratched D Juuso Riikola and Fs Dominik Kahun and Zach Aston-Reese. … The Sabres were 2 for 3 on the power play. The Penguins were 0 for 2.
Sabres: Host Winnipeg on Sunday.
Penguins: Will try to beat the Capitals during a Sunday road matinee for the second time this month. Pittsburgh edged Washington 4-3 on Feb. 2.