PITTSBURGH – Jeff Carter scored and Maxime Lagace stopped 29 shots for his first career shutout when the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabers 1-0 on Saturday.
Lagace started for the first time in more than two years, taking his seventh career win and helping Pittsburgh to gain home advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The penguins were at the regular season finale without Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, their two best goalkeepers.
“Probably what I remember most is when the buzzer sounded.” Said Lagace. “It was a great relief. I would say that within the last four minutes I started thinking about the shutdown. It crept into my head a bit and I wanted it so badly. “
Carter scored his 17th goal when the Penguins finished the regular season with 13 wins and points in 14 of their last 16 games. Pittsburgh also finished 22-4-2 at home, one of the top marks in the league.
Michael Houser, who was born in Youngstown and raised in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, made 22 parades for Buffalo. Houser started for the fourth year in a row for the Sabers, who have used six NHL-high goalkeepers this season.
Lagace was playing with the Vegas Golden Knights when he made his final start against Carolina on February 1, 2019. Lagace, who played in his 18th NHL game, moved to Pittsburgh as a free agent in the off-season and shared the year with the taxi squad and the team’s minor league partner in Wilkes-Barre / Scranton. He served as a substitute for five games with Pittsburgh, including the last two before the start on Saturday.
“I played my first NHL game in two years and wanted to keep it simple.” Said Lagace. “I was trying to have fun… I was having fun and the guys played well in front of me. I am obviously very happy with the result. “
Lagace stopped Drake Caggiula late in the second half on a runaway and rescued Victor Olofsson at close range in the third half, with Pittsburgh retaining a one-goal lead.
“I read the pass but the reaction to the shot (Olofsson) was probably instinctive to be honest.” Said Lagace. “When he shot it, I pulled up my glove and it hit. Sometimes you have to be lucky, and of course I’ll take it. “
Carter scored the only goal of the game at 1:58 pm in Frederick Gaudreau’s second half. Carter had the first four-goal game of his career in an 8-4 win over the Sabers on Thursday. He has five of Pittsburgh’s last nine goals.
The Sabers had an 18-game winning streak mid-regular season, but they won eight of their last 21 games. Buffalo missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season, but the Sabers left Pittsburgh 11-3 and 24-9 in the first half as they were just 40 minutes behind by a goal.
“I think our boys have made progress” Sabers interim coach Don Granato said. “You have an air of confidence. They shouldn’t have trusted them after giving up eight goals the other day. They came from the drop of the puck and had confidence, and that’s progress. “
Pittsburgh will finish no worse than second place in the East Division after Saturday’s win. But the Penguins are aiming for their ninth league title in franchise history and the first since the 2013-14 season.
Pittsburgh can win the division championship if Washington doesn’t win its last two regular games.
Pittsburgh took their 15th consecutive playoff spot last week, the longest active streak in major North American professional sports.
“This is where the fun begins” Penguin trainer Mike Sullivan said. “We went out of our way to earn the privilege of fighting for the Stanley Cup. I’m looking forward to the next part with this group of players. “
Evgeni Malkin couldn’t finish Saturday’s game against Buffalo.
Teddy Blueger centered the second line late in the third period and Jared McCann replaced Malkin during a late power play on top unit. Malkin, who failed to play the final 8:48 of regulation, recently returned to the line-up after missing 23 games with a lower body injury.
Sullivan said Malkin thought he was “Slightly optimized” in a collision, and that the team endured it as a precaution.
“He was checked out afterwards and felt fine” Sullivan said. “We don’t expect any problems in the future.”
DeSmith deals with an upper body injury while Jarry deals with a lower body injury. DeSmith missed his third game while Jarry beat Buffalo on Thursday.
Sullivan expects both Jarry and DeSmith to be ready when the playoffs begin.
Penguins forward Brandon Tanev attended his third full contact training session on Friday but also missed the regular season finale on Saturday. He missed his 18th game in a row with an upper body injury. Tanev has missed 24 of their last 26 games.
Penguins’ D Mike Matheson missed his fourth straight game after being hit in the face with a puck in Washington on May 1.
Carter approaches 400
Carter is one of the goals of becoming the 101st player in NHL history and the second in the 2003 NHL Draft class to score 400 goals.
Carter has scored nine goals and 11 points in 14 games since Pittsburgh took over the veteran striker from Los Angeles before close of trading. Carter has had eight goals in 40 games with the Kings that season.
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