The officials and NHL Situation Room ruled the Buffalo Sabres were at fault when goalie Jonas Johansson was knocked over in the crease by Nick Bjugstad on the Pittsburgh Penguins' opening goal Thursday night in KeyBank Center.
A later collision involving Penguins goalie Matt Murray did not benefit Buffalo, and the two rulings set the stage for the Sabres' 4-2 loss. Buffalo (29-30-8) has lost a season-high five consecutive games in regulation and has scored two or fewer goals in six straight.
Patric Hornqvist scored both Penguins goals (39-21-6) following collisions involving Johansson and Murray. The second occurred on the power play after Johan Larsson was penalized for goaltender interference in the second period, and the first gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead after Bjugstad collided with Johansson.
Johansson, who made his fifth career NHL start, stopped 28 of 32 shots. Jake McCabe scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game in the first period, and Marcus Johansson cut the deficit to one with a wrist shot from the high slot in the third. Marcus Pettersson and Sidney Crosby also scored for Pittsburgh.
Jack Eichel was held without a point for a sixth consecutive game, the longest mark of his five-year NHL career.
Impressive start: Jonas Johansson was sharp at the start of the game, beginning with a pad save on Brandon Tanev following a Rasmus Dahlin turnover in the defensive zone. Johansson also stopped Evgeni Malkin's wrist shot from below the right faceoff dot and Pittsburgh recorded the first 11 shots on goal of the game.
Coach's challenge: Sabres coach Ralph Krueger requested a coach's challenge after Johansson was run over in the crease by Bjugstad on Hornqvist goal at 7:56 into the first period. The NHL Situation Room ruled that Curtis Lazar and McCabe "pushed, shoved, or fouled" Bjugstad to cause contact with Johansson. Buffalo was penalized for the unsuccessful challenge and Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead.
Response: The Sabres recorded their first shot on goal with 12:04 remaining in the first period and scored their fifth shorthanded goal of the season to tie the game, 1-1. McCabe intercepted a pass at Buffalo's blue line and scored on a breakaway with a backhanded shot to beat Murray at 9:01.
Point shot: Pettersson pushed the Penguins' lead to 2-1 with a slap shot that went through Johansson's leg pads at 12:26 into the first period. The Sabres were outshot, 16-9, over the first 20 minutes and entered Thursday with a 6-16-6 record when trailing after the first period.
Another call: Larsson was penalized for goalie interference after he skated backwards into Murray at 12:31 into the second period. Less than one minute later, the Penguins pushed their lead to 3-1 with Hornqvist shooting a puck off Johansson's stick and into the net.
Instant impact: Sabres winger Dominik Kahun, who was acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, made a centering pass to Marcus Johansson, who released a wrist shot from the high slot to cut the deficit to 3-2 at 1:57 into the third period. Kahun has three points in four games since joining Buffalo, and Marcus Johansson has nine goals in 58 games this season.
Odd angle: The Penguins made it 4-2 with 13:58 remaining in the third period on Crosby's backhanded, short-side shot from the right circle.
Reception: Former Sabres Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary received light applause from the crowd in the first period as they were welcomed back with a message on the video board.
Lineup: Defenseman Colin Miller and winger Michael Frolik were healthy scratches for the Sabres. Frolik, who was acquired in January from Calgary in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, has been a healthy scratch in four consecutive games and has one goal with three assists in 18 games with Buffalo.
"I think more than anything he really solidified our PK there for a stretch and gave us some good insight on things we can do better," Krueger said of Frolik. "He’s a good leader in the room, of course, but he’s really fallen victim to the mix, the way it ended up falling in the lines functioning in a good way here. … He’s keeping game ready and I’m sure we’re going to see him again. Certainly adding to the offense is something we’d like to see when he comes back in."
Injury update: Goalie Linus Ullmark (lower body) is expected to serve as a backup as early as Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, Krueger told reporters following the morning skate Thursday. Ullmark has missed the past 17 games after suffered the injury Jan. 30, and he has rejoined the Sabres for practices.
Next: The Sabres will practice Friday in preparation for their game Saturday night in Philadelphia.