BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Another highlight-reel goal for Sidney Crosby, another trip to the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby opened the scoring on a spectacular effort, and Nick Bonino scored the game-winner with 5:29 remaining to lead the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
The defending champions clinched a playoff berth for the 11th consecutive season.
"It kind of snuck up on us," Bonino said. "We're happy to clinch and now it's obviously posturing for that top spot and none of the teams in our division want to lose so it should be fun to watch. It's playoff hockey already."
With 101 points, the Penguins (46-17-9) are between Washington (102 points) and Columbus (100 points) with the three best point totals in the league all coming from the Metropolitan Division.
Crosby ensured the Penguins clinched their playoff berth in style in what was an eventful night for the Pittsburgh captain.
Just before the end of the first period, Crosby picked up the puck behind his own blue line and split the Sabres defense, taking it all the way before lifting a one-handed backhand shot into the net.
Crosby's goal was his sixth in the past three games and his 11th point in the last six contests.
"The play that everyone (messes) around doing in practice and he does it in games," Bonino said. "The sea parted for him there, only 15 seconds left, he turned it on and that's a huge goal at the end of a period."
Said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan: "It was a goal-scorer's goal by an elite player."
Earlier in the period, Crosby clipped Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly with a stick to the groin, and Crosby ended the game in some serious pain of his own. While attempting an empty-net goal in the final seconds, Crosby received a high stick from Evander Kane that knocked out several teeth.
Bonino's game-winner came on a shot from the left circle. After Ian Cole's pass was blocked, Bonino picked up the puck and fired a shot through traffic to the blocker side for his 15th goal of the season.
Matt Murray made 29 saves, and Conor Sheary contributed a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh.
Sam Reinhart scored for Buffalo (30-32-12).
"I truly believe the bounces go your way especially in the third period if you've been putting the effort in in the first two," Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. "By the end, we were a little bit slower."
The score would have been much worse for Buffalo had it not been for Robin Lehner, who made 31 saves. Lehner was terrific throughout and stopped three breakaways.
A scary moment for the Penguins came midway through the first period when Jake Guentzel left the game after a dangerous hit to the head. Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen skated backward through the neutral zone and hit Guentzel hard when he didn't have the puck.
Guentzel initially attempted to skate to the bench before falling to the ice. He eventually made his way off with the assistance of a trainer but did not return. Sullivan said after the game that Guentzel suffered a concussion.
"It hurts," Sullivan said. "He's a good player. He's been a part of that line that's been very good for us as of late. Hopefully it won't be too long."
Ristoalinen was given a five-minute major penalty for interference as well as a game misconduct.
"I don't like the fact that he got ejected," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think it's an unfortunate play."
Reinhart evened the score 2:09 into the third period. After his initial shot was blocked, his follow-up from a hard angle in the right circle went in for his 17th goal of the season.
Sheary was given credit for Pittsburgh's third goal with 3:31 remaining. The winger burst up the left wing and his ensuing rebound was put into the net by Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons.
NOTES: There were 11 scratches. C Evgeni Malkin, D Cameron Gaunce, LW Tom Sestito, LW Carl Hagelin and D Ron Hainsey were scratched for the Penguins. Malkin missed his third game in a row with an upper-body injury. RW Kyle Okposo, D Cody Franson, D Taylor Fedun, D Justin Falk, LW Nicolas Deslauriers and D Dmitry Kulikov were scratched for Buffalo. Okposo has missed 10 games for Buffalo with a rib injury, and Kulikov (upper body) has missed nine games. ... This was the third and final meeting this season. The clubs split the previous two encounters.