PITTSBURGH – Against what was for all intents and purposes the Pittsburgh Penguins starting roster, the Buffalo Sabres held their own fairly well. At least for two periods.
The Sabres got off plenty of shots, skated well, and made some good defensive plays. It wasn't crisp enough, particularly in the third period, as the Sabres fell, 5-4, to the defending Stanley Cup champions in PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night.
Buffalo answered the first two goals the Penguins scored, but gave up a late goal in the second and two early goals in the third to drop its third straight preseason game.
Jacob Josefson scored with 41.5 seconds left for the Sabres and Evander Kane added a goal with 19.6 seconds after Buffalo pulled goalie Chad Johnson.
Smooth as silk: The Penguins top line made quick work getting on the board. Sidney Crosby fed a beautiful pass to Jake Guentzel who buried the shot and gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game. Guentzel leads the NHL in preseason points with eight (three goals, five assists) in three games.
Defense in the play: Sabres coach Phil Housley has wanted his defensemen to jump into the play. Victor Antipin did just that as the defenseman notched his first goal with Buffalo, snapping home a pass from Zemgus Girgensons from the edge of the faceoff circle. The goal at 5:54 of the first tied the game, 1-1.
Taking shots: The Sabres defense took the charge to get in the play in earnest. Justin Falk led the team in shots in the first period with three. Defenseman Zach Bogosian was tied with forward Justin Bailey with two.
Sticking with the play: Follow the puck and good things happen. Especially if you're Crosby. As the Penguins applied pressure on Johnson in the crease, Crosby kept working for the puck and jammed it in the net for a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead at 3:23 of the second.
From the fourth line: Nicolas Deslauriers scored his first goal in more than a year, stealing the puck from Justin Schultz and firing it past Pittsburgh goaltender Antti Niemi. That tied the game, 2-2, in the second.
Power-play goal: Pittsburgh regained the lead, 3-2, with a minute left in the second when Schultz blew a shot from the top of the left face-off circle past Johnson. Deslauriers had been in the box for holding.
Two-goal lead: With 6:21 left in the third, Phil Kessel split Zach Bogosian and Nathan Beaulieu to charge in alone on Johnson. His goal gave the Pens a 4-2 lead.
Make it three: Evgeni Malkin scored on the power play shortly after Kessel's goal, giving the Penguins a comfortable 5-2 lead for the rest of the game.
Throwing his weight around: Kane finished with eight hits and generally was a physical pest to the Penguins all night. He tangled with Pittsburgh forward Ryan Reaves late in the second period, but officials broke it up before any real punches could be thrown. Both went to the penalty box with double minors for roughing.
Off-sides challenges: The NHL announced that its Board of Governors changed the penalty when coach's unsuccessfully challenge on off-sides on a goal. The new rule assesses a two-minute minor penalty for an unsuccessful coach's challenge to an alleged off-side in fraction leading to goals. This replaces the loss of a time-out which had been the penalty for an unsuccessful challenge since the implementation of the rule in 2015.
The lineup: The Sabres started the line of Kane-Jack Eichel-Jason Pominville and the defensive pair of Nathan Beaulieu-Zach Bogosian. The other lines combinations were:
Zemgus Girgensons-Ryan O'Reilly-Kyle Okposo.
Benoit Pouliot-Sam Reinhart-Justin Bailey.
Nicolas Deslauriers-Jacob Josefson-Johan Larsson.
The other defensive pairings were Justin Falk-Cody Goloubef and Victor Antipin-Taylor Fedun.
Lettermen: Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel and Zach Bogosian were all wearing an "A" on their jersey Wednesday night. The Sabres have not named their captain or alternate captains for the season yet.
Scratches: The Sabres did not dress forwards Nicholas Baptiste, Seth Griffith or Matt Moulson. Scratched defensemen were Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella while goaltender Robin Lehner sat this game out. Also missing were injured Sabres Sean Malone, Alexander Nylander, Evan Rodrigues and Jake McCabe.
Up next: The Sabres close out the preseason on Friday when they host the New York Islanders at 7:05 p.m. in KeyBank Center. They open the regular season at home against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, Oct. 5.