PITTSBURGH — Jake Eichel’s shot squirted past Casey DeSmith 45 seconds into overtime as the surging Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 on Monday night.
The Sabres won their sixth straight by overcoming a three-goal deficit. Casey Mittelstadt tied it with just over 9 minutes to go in regulation and Eichel won it with a shot from the right circle that found its way by DeSmith.
Tage Thompson, Zach Bogosian and Casey Nelson also scored for Buffalo, which has won six straight for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Carter Hutton withstood an early flurry from Pittsburgh and finished with 36 saves.
Tanner Pearson had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, his first points with Pittsburgh since being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles last week. Phil Kessel picked up his 10th for the Penguins and Jake Guentzel and Derick Brassard also scored.
DeSmith made 35 stops but spent most of the final 30 minutes under heavy duress from the Sabres. Pittsburgh has won just once in its last 10 games.
The Penguins woke up Monday tied with Florida for last place in the Eastern Conference thanks to the franchise’s longest extended funk since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season in 2005-06. Crosby missed his third straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury but cautioned that it was far too early for Pittsburgh to panic.
And for the first 30 minutes, the Penguins did what they’ve done to Buffalo so regularly during Crosby’s tenure: they dominated.
Brassard gave Pittsburgh the lead 8:46 into the first when he beat Hutton to the stick side on a 2-on-1 for his second goal of the season. The Sabres tied it less than three minutes later on a sequence that seemed to sum up Pittsburgh’s bumpy start. Dominik Simon tripped while attempting to clear the puck near the blue line, allowing Buffalo to keep it in. Sam Reinhart whipped a cross-ice pass to Thompson, who fired a one-timer that beat DeSmith cleanly.
Pittsburgh responded when Kessel tapped in a pretty feed from Pearson with 3:45 left in the first. Guentzel put in his own rebound 1:24 into the second and Pearson followed with his first goal in 32 games as the Penguins pushed their lead to 4-1.
Yet little has come easy for Pittsburgh during the opening quarter of the season and the improved Sabres kept chipping away.
Eichel forced a turnover behind the Pittsburgh net that started a sequence that ended with Bogosian ripping a one-timer by DeSmith from the right circle. Nelson drew Buffalo within a goal with 84 seconds left in the second when Nelson’s shot from the point smacked off Pittsburgh defenceman Jack Johnson and into the net.
The Sabres continued to push, and when Mittelstadt beat DeSmith to draw even just past the midway point of the third, Buffalo had all the momentum it would need.
NOTES: Both teams went 0 for 3 on the power play. … Penguins placed C Matt Cullen on injured reserve Monday with a lower-body injury. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Cullen is out “longer term.” … Pittsburgh D Kris Letang became the second defenceman in team history to play in 700 games, joining Brooks Orpik (703). … The Penguins brought back Hall of Famer Craig Patrick to serve as a pro scout. Patrick spent 17 years as Pittsburgh’s general manager from 1989-2006, helping the franchise win consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. … Buffalo F Jason Pominville played in his 681st game with the Sabres, tying Rick Martin for ninth-most in franchise history.
Sabres: Host Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Penguins: Host Dallas on Wednesday night.
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Will Graves, The Associated Press