PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal and an assist and Sidney Crosby — in his first game since winning the Olympics for Canada — set up Sergei Gonchar's 200th career goal to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Crosby, playing two days after beating United States goalie Ryan Miller for the game-winning overtime goal for Canada in Vancouver, could have opposed Miller again, but Sabres coach Lindy Ruff chose to start backup Patrick Lalime.
Ruff said Miller deserved a night off after the emotionally draining two-week Olympic tournament in which Miller was chosen MVP.
The pro-Olympic buzz created by the memorable Canada-U.S. game was evidenced by the standing ovations given Miller and Crosby during pregame introductions — and, for perhaps the first time in his career, Crosby drew fewer cheers than an opposing player in his own arena. The ovation given Miller was noticeably louder and longer.
Twice when replays of Crosby's game-winner were shown on the Mellon Arena scoreboard, there was perceptible booing — not that Crosby had scored, but because the U.S. didn't win.
Miller watched the game from a Mellon Arena runway, where the fan sitting nearest to him wore a Crosby Canada Olympic jersey.
The Penguins lost three of their final four before the Olympic break, all in overtime or a shootout, before beating Buffalo for the third time in four games.
The Sabres began the night only one point out of the Northeast Division lead but lost their seventh in eight games.
Fedotenko, an inconsistent scorer all season, put Pittsburgh up 3-1 at 11:03 of the third — a goal the Penguins needed after Derek Roy scored at 15:21 on a shot that wasn't originally ruled a goal. The puck entered and exited the net so quickly that the officials did not signal a goal until after a video review.
Gonchar, who played for non-medalist Russia during the Olympics, put the Penguins up 1-0 with a shot from the point during a power play at 14:58 of the first, with Alex Goligoski and Crosby assisting. Buffalo began the game with the NHL's top-rated penalty killing unit.
Pascal Dupuis made it 2-0 by taking Fedotenko's pass along the goal line and beating Lalime inside the near post at 3:13 of the second. Toni Lydman answered for Buffalo less than three minutes later with a one-timer from the top of the left circle on a play created by Patrick Kaleta's drop pass.
Penguins goalie Brent Johnson made 26 saves, while Lalime stopped 25 shots. Lalime turned aside 50 of 51 shots while going 1-0-1 in his two previous starts against the Penguins this season. Miller opposed Pittsburgh only once, allowing three goals to Crosby during a 5-4 Penguins victory on Feb. 1.
NOTES: Evgeni Malkin has eight goals and 15 assists in 14 games, including an assist on Dupuis' goal. ... D Jordan Leopold, acquired Monday in a trade with Florida, made his Pittsburgh debut and was paired with Goligoski. ... Penguins D Jay McKee, reportedly on the trading block, was held out after Pittsburgh picked up Leopold. ... Buffalo was 0 for 4 on the power play. Pittsburgh went 1 for 2.