The Wild came out strong and dominated puck possession; winning almost every battle along the walls and at the blue lines. At the 5:23 mark of the first, Brodziak cashed in on a delayed penalty call on Cody Hodgson as he slipped one through Enroth’s five-hole to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead, Cooke and Brodin drew assists on the play.
On the next shift Buffalo pushed the tempo of the game and managed to draw an interference call on Dumba, 5:40 into the first. The power-play was to no avail as the Wild’s penalty kill simply outworked the Sabres, and allowed for only 1 shot, which couldn’t find the back of the net.
Minnesota continued to dominate the puck possession game and only came off stronger after their shorthanded success. At 11:27 into the period, Cody McCormick got into a scrap with Minnesota ‘D-man’ Clayton Stoner, McCormick landed a left-handed hay-maker into Stoner’s jaw before wrestling him to the ice. McCormick – 1, Stoner – 0.
Buffalo came back with a bit of a sense of urgency and was able to draw a tripping minor against Dany Heatley . Again, the Minnesota penalty kill simply outworked the Sabres and managed to kill off the penalty while only conceding 1 shot. At the end of the first period Minnesota was credited with six shots, and the Sabres with five. Though the shot total was fairly even, the Sabres were way outplayed by the Wild in the opening period.
The second period began with some theatrics as some of the lights in First Niagara Center weren’t working properly. After only a few minutes of downtime the arena crew managed to get them working. Buffalo had the puck early and often, having it in the offensive end for most of the first four minutes of the period.
They were unable to capitalize on a number of good opportunities, which is something that has been tending to plague the Sabres since the beginning of the season. The ice opened up wide for what was a few minutes of no-stoppage hockey, each team exchanging chances, until Zach Parise took a holding-the-stick call against Hodgson on a Sabres offensive push at 11:31 of the period.
Though they had been able to sustain pressure leading up until this point, the Sabres were once again met with the brick wall that is the Wild’s penalty kill. The Wild came back with a push however a great turnover caused by Flynn allowed Girgensons to skate freely up the left wing and into the offensive zone where he laid the puck into the middle for a one time shot by Flynn. Number 65 put the puck right into Harding’s pad on the first opportunity, however did not hesitate to roof the puck on the second shot, tying the game at 1.
Girgensons is credited with the only assist on Flynn’s goal. Buffalo used this as a building point and upped their pressure for the ensuing minutes, exchanging chances with the Wild on both ends of the ice. At 17:51 of the second period, Drew Stafford was called for what appeared to be a phantom hooking call against Heatley and gave the Wild their first power play of the night.
The Sabres made a few key clears on the penalty kill early, however the tape to tape passing of the Wild got the best of them as Jason Pominville was able to get a shot in off of Enroth’s shoulder to regain the Minnesota lead at 2-1 with only 10 seconds remaining in the period. Koivu and Spurgeon are credited the assists to Pominville’s power play goal.
Side note, Jason Pominville has now scored against every team in the league, in only his first try against the Buffalo Sabres since being traded to Minnesota last year at the deadline. The period ended shortly thereafter with the Sabres now leading in shots with 17, and the Wild with 14.
The Sabres were coming off a resurgent second period and looked to continue into the third period. They managed this early as they once again had a few chances early in the period as Minnesota was slightly back on their heels. Again, the Sabres were able to draw a penalty on Clayton Stoner of the Wild for roughing only 6:10 into the third period.
Again, their power play effort looked sloppy and lack luster. Turning the puck over at the blue line, failing to take shots, and inaccurate passes were just a few of the issues tonight on the power play. Again, the Wild used their penalty kill to turn the tides against the Sabres and come back with their own force.
The Wild sustained pressure over the next 2 minutes, causing Tallinder to take a high sticking call against Zack Parise at the 9:58 mark of the third period. Enroth looked spectacular on this power play, stoning Koivu, Parise, and Granlund cold on some great opportunities.
The Sabres managed to kill off this penalty, which gave them a bit of a boost. This did not last long though because at the 12:56 mark of the third, Drew Stafford took a too many men on the ice call (Served by Thomas Vanek). Similar to the power play previous, Enroth looked very calm and confident in net and was able to hold the Wild off.
Much like the game in Chicago, it was too little too late for the Sabres as they upped pressure with only a minute and a half left to go. Enroth was pulled with about a minute and ten left in the game for the extra attacker, Flynn. The Sabres only had to retreat once, however they were unable to come away with any quality chances as the Wild defense was doing a great job at containing the Sabres players to the outside. The final score of the game was Minnesota: 2, Buffalo: 1.
The Sabres will look for their first win this year as they play again tomorrow night in New York to take on the Islanders.