PITTSBURGH — The Buffalo Sabres might be for real. The Pittsburgh Penguins might be in real trouble.
The proof came over the final 30 minutes of Buffalo's rousing 5-4 overtime victory on Monday night. The Sabres reeled off the final four goals, the last on a shot from the right circle by Jake Eichel that squirted past Casey DeSmith 45 seconds into the extra period to give Buffalo its sixth straight win.
"It's just unbelievable the resiliency the past two weeks," Sabres head coach Phil Housley said.
Buffalo beat the Penguins for just the second team in the last 11 meetings by hanging in there after Pittsburgh took a 4-1 lead. Momentum shifted early in the second period when the Sabres killed a 5-on-3 power play to keep the deficit at three. Zach Bogosian kick started the comeback with a one-timer 10:39 into the second and the young Sabres took off from there.
Tage Thompson, Casey Nelson and Casey Mittlestadt which has won six straight for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Carter Hutton withstood an early flurry from Pittsburgh and finished with 36 saves.
"We just stayed the course and we didn't bend," Housley said. "And obviously Carter Hutton made some huge saves at the right time."
Tanner Pearson had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, his first points with Pittsburgh since being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles last week. Phil Kessel picked up his 10th for the Penguins and Jake Guentzel and Derick Brassard also scored.
DeSmith made 35 stops but spent most of the final 30 minutes under heavy duress from the Sabres. Pittsburgh has won just once in its last 10 games.
"We're well aware of the position that we're in," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We've got a proud group. I do think we're getting better in a lot of areas. We're not getting the results."
The Penguins woke up Monday tied with Florida for last place in the Eastern Conference thanks to the franchise's longest extended funk since Sidney Crosby's rookie season in 2005-06. Crosby missed his third straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury but cautioned that it was far too early for Pittsburgh to panic.
And for the first 30 minutes, the Penguins did what they've done to Buffalo so regularly during Crosby's tenure: they dominated.
Brassard gave Pittsburgh the lead 8:46 into the first when he beat Hutton to the stick side on a 2-on-1 for his second goal of the season. The Sabres tied it less than three minutes later on a sequence that seemed to sum up Pittsburgh's bumpy start. Dominik Simon tripped while attempting to clear the puck near the blue line, allowing Buffalo to keep it in. Sam Reinhart whipped a cross-ice pass to Thompson, who fired a one-timer that beat DeSmith cleanly.
Pittsburgh responded when Kessel tapped in a pretty feed from Pearson with 3:45 left in the first. Guentzel put in his own rebound 1:24 into the second and Pearson followed with his first goal in 32 games as the Penguins pushed their lead to 4-1.
Yet little has come easy for Pittsburgh during the opening quarter of the season and the improved Sabres kept chipping away.
Eichel forced a turnover behind the Pittsburgh net that started a sequence that ended with Bogosian ripping a one-timer by DeSmith from the right circle. Nelson drew Buffalo within a goal with 84 seconds left in the second when Nelson's shot from the point smacked off Pittsburgh defenseman Jack Johnson and into the net.
The Sabres continued to push, and when Mittelstadt beat DeSmith to draw even just past the midway point of the third, Buffalo had all the momentum it would need while improving to 5-6-1 when trailing after two periods this season.
"It's something else," Hutton said. "Obviously, it's something we don't want to get in the habit of, but it seems to be a habit. Just resiliency here. We never stop working."
NOTES: Both teams went 0 for 3 on the power play. ... Penguins placed C Matt Cullen on injured reserve Monday with a lower-body injury. Sullivan said Cullen is out "longer term." ... Pittsburgh D Kris Letang became the second defenseman in team history to play in 700 games, joining Brooks Orpik (703). ... The Penguins brought back Hall of Famer Craig Patrick to serve as a pro scout. Patrick spent 17 years as Pittsburgh's general manager from 1989-2006, helping the franchise win consecutive Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. ... Buffalo F Jason Pominville played in his 681st game with the Sabres, tying Rick Martin for ninth-most in franchise history.
Sabres: Welcomes Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Penguins: Host Dallas on Wednesday night.