It's only the preseason. And the Pittsburgh Penguins brought a young squad minus much of their superstar veteran talent to KeyBank Center Tuesday night.
Still, the Buffalo Sabres had a strong outing with defensemen jumping into the offensive zone and forwards playing responsibly in their own end. Aside from some scrambling in the final four minutes, which allowed Pittsburgh to net two late goals, it was a good performance for the Sabres in a 3-2 win over the Penguins.
The victory comes after the Sabres, albeit another lineup, won the preseason opener in Columbus, 4-1, on Monday night. That's the first 2-0 start to the preseason for the Sabres since 2013.
"I think everyone came into this with a little bit of optimism," said Evan Rodrigues, the only Sabre to play in both preseason games. "I think a big thing is that it shows if you do the right things it will lead to success. Everyone's confidence is continuing to build. It's showing the systems work if we all buy in and do our job. At the same time, it's only preseason. It's only two games and we have to make sure that we continue to do this day in, day out, the rest of camp."
Power play goal: The Sabres cashed in a two-man advantage with 6.6 seconds left in the opening period.
Daniel Sprong took a slashing penalty then Chris Summers was called for delay of game for shooting the puck out of his zone over the glass. That gave the Sabres 1:24 of 5-on-3 time.
The first unit generated some chances, but couldn't get the defense to move out of position. In the closing seconds, Vladimir Sobotka was credited with the goal after a bouncing puck went off former Sabres defender Chad Ruhwedel in front of goalie Casey DeSmith.
Defensive contributions: Jake McCabe crashed the net and swept the puck into the net to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead in the second period. Yes, you read that right. Jake McCabe, the Sabres defenseman, was the player who went to the net.
"It's no different from last year. It's just a high cycle," McCabe said. "That's just our systems play. The six of us (defensemen), whoever is playing that night, we want to be involved and we want to contribute offensively."
But it is different from last year. While that may be the Sabres system, the defensemen had trouble adjusting to an offensive-minded game plan. Last season, the Sabres did not have a goal from a defenseman until December.
This year they have two in two preseason games — McCabe's and one from Nathan Beaulieu Monday in Columbus.
"That's part of our five-man cycle game that we've worked on in camp," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "Jake's goal is a direct result of it. … Who would have thought a defenseman would be right in front of the net? But I like it. It's great. We've got guys covering up for our D and that's the way the game's trending."
A beauty: Jack Eichel made a beautiful play on the penalty kill, gathering the puck in the neutral zone, skating through the Penguins to create a breakaway, then scoring a short-handed goal to give the Sabres a 3-0 lead. For the record, Eichel has not scored a short-handed goal in his regular season NHL career.
Goalies: Carter Hutton got the start for the Sabres and played the first two periods. He made 14 saves while shutting out the Penguins for his 40 minutes of work. Wedgewood came in for the third period. He gave up a goal with 4:17 left in the third to Will O'Neill and then to Juuso Riikola with 3:39 left.
Behind the bench: Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was not in Buffalo Tuesday night. Sullivan's father, George, died at the age of 81 on Saturday. Sullivan took a few days off to be with his family. The funeral is Wednesday in Massachusetts. Assistant coach Jacques Martin has been overseeing the day-to-day duties of the coaching staff and was behind the behind for the Penguins in KeyBank Center.
Up next: Friday the team plays at Toronto then hosts the Maple Leafs on Saturday in KeyBank Center.