For many Penguins' fans, it's going to be difficult rooting against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin when they represent their respective countries in the Sochi Olympics.
Thankfully, that day isn't here yet, and both contributed highlight reel goals to lead the Penguins past the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 at First Niagara Center on Wednesday night.
With the score 1-1, Crosby picked up the puck in the neutral zone and split three Sabres defenders before beating goaltender Ryan Miller over his left shoulder to give the Penguins the lead two minutes into the second period. It was a play that only one, maybe two other players in the NHL can pull off.
Crosby entered Wednesday night having been held pointless in his last two games, which hadn't happened in nearly three months, but he came out against the Sabres flying. It was his most physical game in weeks and the Sabres had no answers for his speed and vision on the ice.
He was making Tanner Glass look like Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams look like Pascal Dupuis during some shifts.
The Sabers (15-33-8) have now gone 17 straight games against the Penguins in which Crosby has at least one point. The streak stretches all the way back to 2007.
Not to be shown up, the Penguins other main attraction added a sensational goal of his own later in the middle frame.
Malkin forced Sabres forward Nick Foligno to turn the puck over at the Penguins blue line, then blew by defenseman Jamie McBain for a breakaway. With only Miller to beat, Malkin fooled him by deking to his backhand then pulling it back to his forehand at the last second to slide it by Miller's right pad for the Penguins' third tally of the game.
The goals, which were just 15 minutes apart, showed why Crosby and Malkin are commonly referred to as the two best players in the world.
Malkin extended his point streak to four games with a goal and an assist and easily could have had more. If head coach Dan Bylsma was looking for more shots from his team tonight, Malkin was definitely listening. In the seven games prior to Wednesday night, Malkin was averaging under three shots on goal per game, but against the Sabres he had five.
The Penguins (40-15-2) have struggled to get secondary scoring this year, but Harry Zolnierczyk and Brian Gibbons showed up Wednesday night to support their superstars.
Zolnierczyk tied the game on a goal from Craig Adams and Crosby late in the first. After Crosby won a battle in the corner, he fed the puck up to Adams, who gave it to Zolnierczyk right in front of Miller, who then buried it far side.
Gibbons made the game 4-1 in the third off of a set face-off in the offensive zone. Brandon Sutter won the drop clean back to Gibbons who rifled a wrist shot over Miller's glove from the top of the circle. James Neal added a fifth goal with assists going to Malkin and Brooks Orpik.
Marc-Andre Fleury allowed the first goal of the game, but was perfect from that moment on and finished with 24 saves. Fleury was rarely called upon to make a play, but his huge save on a 2-on-1 with six minutes remaining in the second kept the Penguins up 2-1. Malkin's goal would come just four minutes later.
The Penguins will travel back home to take on the New York Rangers Friday night at 7 p.m., which will be their last game before the NHL takes a three week break for the Olympics.
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- Despite Victory the Pittsburgh Penguins Need Some Changes
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