Evgeni Malkin has goal and assist, Penguins beat Sabres 5-2

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Evgeni Malkin had a goal and assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the free-falling Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel scored the go-ahead goal on the power play with 8:24 left in the second period. Brandon Tanev, Anthony Angelo and Bryan Rust, with an empty-netter, also scored in a game the Penguins never trailed.

Tristan Jarry stopped 21 shots and was assisted on Rust’s goal. Pittsburgh has won 11 of its past 14.

Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan became the NHL’s fourth U.S.-born coach to win 300 games, and 12th overall to have that many career victories and at least two Stanley Cup titles.

The teams will complete the two-game series Saturday night.

The Sabres dropped to 0-7-2 in their past nine for their longest skid since losing a franchise-record 14 straight midway through the 2014-15 season. Buffalo also extended its home slump to 0-6-1, the team’s worst skid since going 0-5-3 from Jan. 9 to Feb. 5, 2014.

Tage Thompson, with his first goal in 33 games, and Victor Olofsson scored for Buffalo. The Sabres played their second second game without captain Jack Eichel. He’s out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

Rookie center Dylan Cozens, meantime, did not return after being shaken up when shoved into the boards at center ice by Zach Aston-Reese 2:27 into the third period. The Penguins then piled on with Angelo converting a 2-on-1 break 16 seconds later to make it 4-2.

Jonas Johansson stopped 22 shots for Buffalo, which was coming off a 5-4 shootout loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday night in which the Sabres blew a 3-1 lead.

The Sabres twice rallied Thursday to tie it before Pittsburgh went ahead 3-2 with Buffalo’s Jacob Bryson off for hooking.

The Penguins worked the puck around the Sabres zone by eventually feeding Sidney Crosby behind the net. Crosby fed Guentzel in the right circle, from where he snapped a shot inside the far post in catching Johansson on his knees protecting the short side.

Malkin opened the scoring by converting Kasperi Kapanen’s no-look pass on a 2-on-0 break, extended his point streak to six games (three goals, six assist) and continued his career domination over Buffalo. He upped his total to 19 goals and 38 assists for 57 points in 43 games against the Sabres.

Malkin’s production reflects that of the Penguins’ long run of success against the Sabres. Pittsburgh has won 27 of the 37 meetings, and improved to 11-0-2 in its past 13 visits to Buffalo dating to a 6-2 loss on Feb. 19, 2012.

EICHEL UPDATE

Coach Ralph Krueger said Eichel went out of state to get what he called “a deeper assessment” of the upper-body injury the captain sustained in a 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders on Sunday. Eichel was favoring his neck after being checked into the end boards with about four minutes remaining.

CARD-PLAYING KAPANEN

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said forward Kapanen is fitting in well in his first year with the Penguins after being acquired in an offseason trade with Toronto. “He’s a light-hearted guy off the ice. I know he like to play cards with some of the guys,” Sullivan said.

Kapanen began the day tied for fifth on the team with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists), and had scored the game-winning goal in each of Pittsburgh’s previous two victories.

SCHEDULING QUIRK

This was the first of eight meetings between the Sabres and Penguins. The teams have three more two-game series, including a season-ending set at Pittsburgh on May 6 and 8.

SCRATCHES

Penguins: D John Marino did not play for undisclosed reasons and after missing practice Wednesday for what Sullivan called “maintenance.”

Sabres: LW Tobias Rieder was a healthy scratch.

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