Sidney Crosby had been getting his chances. They just weren’t going in the net.
That all changed against the Buffalo Sabres.
Crosby ended a long goal drought and assisted on Conor Sheary’s game-winner 16 seconds into overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Sabres 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“You’re happy to see it go in the net,” Crosby said. “There’s a few more I probably could’ve had, but there were some good chances. As long as they’re there, hopefully they’ll start going in a little bit more.”
Crosby scored his sixth of the season, Sheary had a pair of goals and Patric Hornqvist added one for Pittsburgh. Phil Kessel got his eighth of the season and has goals in four straight games. Kessel, the team’s leading scorer, has at least one point in five consecutive games — and 16 of 20 this season.
Matt Murray made 28 saves for the Penguins, who won their sixth in a row at home. Pittsburgh is 12-0-1 in its last 13 games against the Sabres, including seven straight wins at home.
Pittsburgh, which lost six of its previous eight games, played 13 of its first 19 on the road, including six back-to-backs, and is 4-7-2 away from home. The Penguins play 13 of their next 19 at home, where they have won six of their last seven.
“I thought it wasn’t the prettiest game,” Crosby said. “They’re pretty skilled and can generate a lot, but I thought we stuck with it.”
Sabres star Jack Eichel ended a scoring drought of his own with his fifth goal of the season. Sam Reinhart, Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane also scored for Buffalo.
Kane has 10 goals in 18 games. He’s off to the best start of his career, topping his mark of 10 goals in 22 games during the 2011-12 season.
Robin Lehner made 40 saves for the Sabres, who lost for the sixth time in eight games and haven’t won in Pittsburgh since April 2, 2013.
“It’s frustrating, and we have to do a better job,” Reinhart said. “We earned that lead going into the third. There’s a reason why we have it. We play with a mindset that we’re going to take it to them and play with a lead. Then, we get it and we sit back too much.”
Pouliot gave the Sabres a 4-3 lead entering the third period by scoring a power-play goal with 6.7 seconds left in the second. Reinhart centred a pass to Pouliot, who backhanded a shot over Murray’s glove.
Kessel tied it at 13:49 of the third. He was on one knee when he one-timed a cross-ice feed from Evgeni Malkin past Lehner.
“That was a big goal to tie it up,” Crosby said. “I thought in the third we pushed pretty hard. It was a big goal to tie it for Phil and it felt like we continued to press from there.”
Crosby set up the game-winner from behind the net to Sheary in front. Penguins defenceman Kris Letang also assisted for his 400th NHL point. He became the 12th player in franchise history to reach 400 points and joined Hall of Famer Paul Coffey as the only defencemen in team history to reach the milestone.
Crosby scored for the first time in 11 games and Eichel ended an eight-game drought, both in the second period.
Murray was on the opposite post when Crosby lost the puck behind the net to Eichel, who converted in front. Eichel, who scored for the first time since Oct. 21, had three assists in his previous eight games after scoring 11 points in his first nine.
“It’s good to get one,” Eichel said. “I haven’t had one in a while, so hopefully that will jumpstart me.”
Crosby avoided matching the longest goal drought of his career when he scored on the power play, converting Kessel’s rebound from the top of the crease. He had just three assists since scoring four goals in three games last month.
Crosby went 12 straight games without a goal when he had 17 assists from Nov. 23 to March 24, 2012. He missed 60 games with concussion-like symptoms that season.
“We love his resiliency,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “He has such high expectations on himself and I thought he played hard tonight.”