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Afternoon delight; Sabres' matinee is a smashing success

The day started with the building falling down on the Sabres. They responded by bringing down the house.

Buffalo ended its four-game winless streak with authority Sunday, earning a 6-2 victory over Pittsburgh. The Sabres tied their season high in goals while playing the type of game the First Niagara Center crowd has been expecting all season, an outing filled with clutch offense and impressive goaltending.

"It was fun because we worked hard and deserved to win," captain Jason Pominville said. "It's just disappointing that a lot of times we've been inconsistent."

Pominville and linemate Derek Roy combined for three goals and six points, including a goal each in the opening 4:16 to get the Sabres and the sellout crowd of 18,690 rolling.

"We got off to a good start," said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who also had three points, all assists. "We really worked hard, and it showed in the score."

The meeting with the Penguins started ominously for the Sabres. A large light bulb near the ceiling of the arena exploded just prior to warm-ups. When the players took the ice, large shards of glass ruined the edges on their skates. Most of the Sabres needed to retreat to the dressing room to get the blades re-sharpened.

The officials gave the Sabres five extra minutes to warm up in the Penguins' zone after Pittsburgh left the ice. The referees also delayed the start of the game to give Buffalo time to remedy the blade problems.

"There was glass all over the ice, and it was frozen into the ice," Pominville said. "It wasn't skateable, and it was pretty dangerous. I'm surprised they were able to get it off that quick because it was really frozen into the ice."

Once the puck dropped, the only thing jagged was the Penguins' goaltending. The Sabres needed just 52 seconds to start the torment of one of their favorite targets, Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson. Then, after only three shots, Buffalo increased its lead to 2-0.

Pominville added to his team-high goal total with his 23rd just as the fans were settling into their seats. Johnson stopped Pominville's deflection of a Tyler Myers pass, but the captain popped the rebound over the goalie to get the building roaring.

With 4:16 gone, the Sabres struck again. Roy skated to the bottom of the left circle and put a backhand between Johnson and the post. It was the third straight game in which the Sabres scored twice in the opening period. They entered the day averaging just 2.36 goals per game this season.

The Sabres chased Johnson with 2:52 gone in the second when Paul Gaustad popped home a rebound to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead.

It shouldn't have been a surprise the goalie didn't last long. He entered with just a 3.61 goals-against average and .873 save percentage against the Sabres. The shortest start of his career came in Buffalo on Dec. 26, 2006, when he allowed four goals on six shots in a stick-splintering, glove-throwing outing for Washington.

After Johnson calmly departed for Marc-Andre Fleury, it was the Sabres' turn to get frustrated. Fleury repeatedly stoned the Sabres' second-period attack -- including a penalty shot by Patrick Kaleta -- and got help when left wing Nathan Gerbe hit the post instead of a wide-open net.

Deryk Engelland scored with 3:39 gone in the second. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller answered with his biggest save of the day three minutes later. He stopped NHL points leader Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway, allowing the Sabres to keep their 3-1 lead through the second period.

"He had a lot of speed behind him so I thought maybe that was a chance for him to shoot," said Miller, who finished with 24 saves. "I know he likes to go low blocker -- it's a favorite, it's a first option -- I just tried to make sure I was ready to cover it."

Jordan Staal pulled the Penguins within 3-2 with 5:05 gone in the third, bringing an "uh-oh" moment to the Blue and Gold faithful. The team with a tendency to collapse instead responded. Drew Stafford scored just 1:05 later, and Pominville fed Roy for a short-handed goal with 8:32 gone to send the Sabres toward their victory.

"A lot of things clicked," Miller said. "We do have the skill to win some hockey games."

The question afterward became why isn't that talent displayed nightly. The trade deadline is next Monday, and the Sabres created seven anxious days for themselves by falling toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

"We kind of put ourselves in a tough position as to where management has to take a good look as to what's going on because we don't perform up to our expectations," Miller said. "It comes down to the right makeup of players, and this is the time when some of that kind of shuffles.

"We know that the effort and some of the key plays have been missing this year. We were happy to have it [Sunday]. We're just going to try and keep establishing that kind of a game when we can."

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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Sabres 6, Penguins 2

Slap shots: Sabres end four-game winless streak by tying season high with six goals. ... Roy, Pominville, Ehrhoff record three points each. ... Sabres score twice in opening 4:16, chase Penguins' starting goalie Johnson early in second.

Fast fact: The Sabres improved to 16-4-4 when center Derek Roy records a point.

Next: New York Islanders, 7 p.m. Tuesday in First Niagara Center.