PITTSBURGH (AP) – Ales Kotalik’s power-play goal early in the third period put Buffalo back in the lead and the Sabres won in Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly five years, beating the slumping Penguins 3-2 Tuesday night.

With goalie Martin Biron winning his fourth in a row by making 30 saves, the Sabres ended an 0-5-2 winless run in Pittsburgh since they last won there Dec. 2, 2000 – a few weeks before Mario Lemieux’s comeback game for the Penguins.

Lemieux returned again Tuesday after missing one game and two of his previous four with flu-like symptoms, but was held without a goal for his sixth consecutive game and the seventh time in eight games.

Buffalo has won its last four and is 8-2-1 in its last 11. Pittsburgh lost its third in a row, fourth in five games and sixth in eight.

Maxim Afinogenov scored Buffalo’s first goal and set up Kotalik’s game-winner about 5 minutes into the final period with a cross-ice pass that Kotalik one-timed through goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s pads for his 13th goal – and the Sabres’ only power play goal in seven chances. Buffalo came into the game with the NHL’s third best power play conversion rate.

Matt Murley gave the Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead, a rarity for a Penguins team that has scored the initial goal only seven times in 25 games, but the Penguins never got anything going on their power play and went 1-for-9.

The Penguins were 0-for-4 with the man advantage in the final period, when they failed to generate any momentum after John LeClair ended an eight-game streak without a goal by taking Mark Recchi’s pass from behind the net and scoring on a power play to tie it at 2 early in the period.

Fleury, recalled Monday from the minors to be the Penguins’ starting goalie after neither Jocelyn Thibault nor Sebastien Caron could win the job, made 24 saves and was strong when Buffalo was on the power play. But the former No. 1 draft pick did not play as well as he did in his previous start Nov. 16 in Philadelphia, when he made 45 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory he started only because of an injury.

Murley’s second career goal put Pittsburgh up 1-0 about five minutes into the game, not long after Biron made the save of the night by throwing out his stick to stop Sidney Crosby’s shot into what looked to be an open net. Biron had a 1.92 goals against average in winning each of his previous three starts.

Afinogenov tied it midway through the period, steering in the rebound of a Derek Roy shot that deflected off Fleury and took several bounces in the slot before Afinogenov got his stick on it.

Paul Gaustad put the Sabres up midway through the second period with a wrist shot from the lower left circle that Fleury did not appear to see. Two of Gaustad’s four career goals are against Fleury, including a goal in the Sabres’ 3-2 win in Buffalo on Oct. 10.

Notes: Buffalo’s leading scorer, Daniel Briere, missed his fourth in a row with an abdominal strain. … Buffalo scored a power play goal for the 18th time in 19 games. … The Sabres have 13 of a possible 14 points in their last seven games. … Crosby, playing with a bruised left foot, was shut out for a second consecutive game after scoring six goals in his previous six games.

AP-ES-11-29-05 2209EST


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