PITTSBURGH – The most mind-boggling streak in the Buffalo Sabres’ 47-year history mercifully ended 11:18 into the third period of Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Penguins.
When Jason Pominville one-timed linemate Jack Eichel’s pass by Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry from the right circle, the Sabres scored their first goal in almost four games – 232:09 to be exact – ending a stunning stretch of futility.
The Sabres hadn’t scored a goal since winger Kyle Okposo’s empty-netter Nov. 24.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Scoring at least relieves a little pressure, Sabres coach Phil Housley said.
“You go three games without scoring, it’s difficult, you’re squeezing you sticks, it’s can be very hard mentally,” he said. “It was good to see that one go in, it got us right back in the game.”
Eichel said: “I guess that’s one burden off our shoulders.”
The hapless Sabres were still a long way from tying the 1928-29 Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL record of getting shut out in eight consecutive games.
“Mentally, hopefully it feels good for the team to get one and not have to talk about this for hopefully a little while,” Pominville said.
Still, the embarrassing goal drought – they had never been blanked in three straight games before Friday – illustrates how far the Sabres, who earned 78 points last season, have fallen.
The NHL’s worst team has dropped four straight games and 11 of its last 12. Right now, at 6-17-4 with 16 points, a Sabres are on pathetic 49-point pace.
A night after the Penguins beat them 4-0 in Buffalo, the Sabres showcased more jump before a capacity crowd of 18,582 inside PPG Paints Arena, pumping 33 shots on Jarry.
“They came with a lot of emotion, they played for one another tonight, you could see it in the first period, we were really having a strong period,” Housley said. “But again, it’s a game of mistakes. We can’t make mistakes right now because of the position we’re in. We’re not getting enough (goal) support to support mistakes.”
Pominville said: “We were a little bit different tonight. We weren’t as flat as we had been in the previous couple games.”
Overall, however, the Sabres’ top forwards are flat, producing little or no offense. Leading scorer Evander Kane has gone six games without a goal. Pominville scored his first goal in 15 contests. Okposo has scored once in 11 outings. Sam Reinhart has a five-game point drought.
“Our better players have to be our best players,” Housley said. “Right now, they’re having a tough time, they’re squeezing their sticks.”
Eichel said: “It’s tough to score goals in this league. (You) start gripping our stick a little bit and thinking, maybe trying to fine-tune it a little bit, and I think I’m guilty of it recently.”
The Penguins have a 15-game point streak (14-0-1) against the Sabres and have won eight straight home games against them.
Evgeni Malkin, Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist put the Penguins up 3-0 before Pominville scored. Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby then sealed it late.
Crosby also had an assist and has 15 goals and 48 points in his last 29 games against the Sabres.
Buffalo’s power play went scoreless in four tries and is now zero of 26 over the last nine games.
Sabres defenseman Nathan Beaulieu left the game with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return.