PITTSBURGH (AP)Dustin Tokarski came through when the Buffalo Sabres needed it the most, stopping a career-high 45 shots as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Tuesday night.
”He was our No. 1, 2 and 3 star,” Sabres forward Kyle Okposo said. ”Third period was really ugly from a team standpoint. He won that game for us in the third.”
Tokarski’s previous high was 44 saves on April 1. He turned aside 19 shots in the third period alone, when Pittsburgh outshot the Sabres 20-3. Tokarski has stopped 78 of the last 81 shots he’s faced.
Buffalo saw second-period goals from Okposo and Colin Miller for its second win in three games, following a five-game losing streak.
”I’m glad we had a two-goal lead and we had (Tokarski) in net,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. ”We were reeling all the way through, but battled all the way through.”
Jake Guentzel for Pittsburgh, which lost its third straight game and eight of its last 10. Tristan Jarry made 17 saves for the Penguins, who were coming off back-to-back losses against Ottawa and Washington in which they were outscored by a 12-4 margin.
”I thought we controlled a lot of the play and we put a lot of pucks at the net,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”There’s a lot of positives to draw from this. If we play a game similar to the one we played tonight, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Guentzel ended Pittsburgh’s lengthy power-play drought at 5:59 of the third period. Bryan Rust’s pass hit Guentzel’s skate and went behind Tokarski. Sidney Crosby had a secondary assist for his first point of the season.
Miller scored the first goal of the game 28 seconds into the second period on a shot through traffic from the right point.
Okposo gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead at 8:54 of the second period by redirecting a Zemgus Girgensons pass.
”I felt good,” Tokarski said. ”I focused on what I could control. The guys battled hard and we got the win.”
Crosby and defenseman Brian Dumoulin will play Thursday when Pittsburgh visits Montreal, but Sullivan cannot coach because of COVID-19 border restrictions in Canada. Crosby, Dumoulin and Sullivan recently missed five games with COVID-19 before returning Sunday against Washington.
Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt (upper body) and defenseman Henri Jokiharju (lower body) both missed their 14th game, while forward Victor Olofsson (undisclosed) sat out his seventh and goaltender Craig Anderson (upper body) his fifth.
Mittelstadt and Jokiharju both left the team’s opener on Oct. 14. Mittelstadt was the Sabres’ projected top-line center. Olofsson is tied for the team lead with five goals despite missing seven games, while Anderson last played in San Jose on Nov. 2.
Pittsburgh hadn’t scored in its previous 28 power-play opportunities before Guentzel’s goal – a span of nearly nine games.
The Penguins are 5 for 50 this season, which ranks last in the NHL. Pittsburgh ranked fourth in the league with the man advantage last season, converting at a 23.7% clip.
”They’ve had some really good looks,” Sullivan said. ”The puck just hasn’t gone in the net for them.”
Sabres: Host Calgary on Thursday.
Penguins: Visit Montreal on Thursday.