Sidney Crosby still has Ryan Miller’s number after scoring a highlight-reel go-ahead goal in Pittsburgh’s 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
That’s fine with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, so long as that trend doesn’t continue once the Winter Games open next week.
“I was cheering the goal this time,” said Bylsma, who will be switching hats in Sochi, where he will be coaching Miller on the U.S. team. “It did dawn on me as Sid was going in and he scores that goal.”
Crosby, Canada’s captain, had a goal and assist in a pre-Olympic tuneup in which the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins (40-15-2) set a franchise record by reaching 40 wins in 57 games. That eclipsed the previous mark of 40 wins in 65 games in 1995-96.
Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Brian Gibbons and minor-league call-up Harry Zolnierczyk also scored in a game the Penguins overcame a 1-0 deficit.
Drew Stafford scored for the NHL’s worst team, and Miller finished with 29 saves. Buffalo (15-33-8) dropped to 4-9-4 in its past 17 and winless in its last eight home games (0-5-3). That’s the Sabres’ worst home stretch since opening the season 0-8-1.
For Crosby, he scored his first goal in six games and also ended a two-game point drought.
That it happened against Buffalo and Miller shouldn’t come as a surprise. Crosby has at least a point in all 14 trips to Buffalo (9 goals and 13 assists). And he has been particularly sharp at beating Miller, including the gold-medal winning overtime goal in Canada’s 3-2 victory at the Vancouver Games four years ago.
“He made some big saves tonight,” Crosby said in defense of Miller. “Can’t blame him. He held his team in it. And we scored some nice goals.”
The performance didn’t sit well with Miller, but he doesn’t think it will carry over to the Olympics.
“It’s game-by-game. Stuff happens out there and you reset,” Miller said.
That was evident on Crosby’s goal, which came on the power play 2:08 into the second period, and put the Penguins up 2-1.
Immediately after Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Buffalo’s Brian Flynn in close, Crosby circled his own net and built up a head of steam by driving up the left wing. Accepting Matt Niskanen’s pass while crossing center, Crosby didn’t break stride in cutting between Flynn and Mike Weber. He then drove toward the net and snapped a shot just inside the top right corner.