PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby scored two goals, defenseman Kris Letang returned 12 days after the second stroke of his career and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Saturday night.
Rickard Rakell also scored to help the Penguins win their fifth straight and improve to 12-2-2 in their last 16 games. Casey DeSmith, making his first start in six games, stopped 37 shots as Pittsburgh completed a sweep of the home-and-home series after also winning 4-3 in overtime at Buffalo on Friday night.
Peyton Krebs scored for the Sabres, who lost for the third time in five games. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen finished with 28 saves.
Rakell opened the scoring for Pittsburgh with a power-play goal at 4:22 of the first period. He converted a rebound from the left faceoff dot for his 12th as Pittsburgh scored with the man advantage in its fifth straight game. Evgeni Malkin continued a five-game point streak with an assist.
Crosby made it 2-0 at 6:51 of the first when he beat Luukkonen with a backhander from the side of the crease. Jake Guentzel extended a seven-game point streak with the primary assist.
Krebs pulled the Sabres within one at 11:00 of the third period. He deflected a point shot from Casey Fitzgerald behind DeSmith for his second of the season.
Crosby put the game away in the final two minutes when he scored on a partial breakaway for his 17th.
Letang, who missed five games, led the Penguins with 22:14 of ice time. He played on the second defensive pairing with P.O. Joseph. Letang didn’t play on the team’s top power-play unit, but he saw time with the second group and committed a third-period holding penalty.
The 35-year-old Letang suffered his second stroke on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches. He skated on his own two days after the diagnosis and returned to practice with his teammates 10 days later.
Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to his second stroke, which was described by team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas as “smaller” than the one Letang previously endured.
The Sabres played without Jeff Skinner, one of their top forwards. He was suspended three games on Saturday following an illegal cross-check to the head of Penguins forward Jake Guentzel on Friday night. Buffalo also played without defenseman Henri Jokiharju, who was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Jokiharju, a top-four defenseman, is considered week-to-week.
Sabres: Host Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Penguins: Host Dallas on Monday night.