Storylines. Tonight was all about storylines. Whether it was the return of Lindy Ruff to Buffalo as the head coach of another team; the introduction of Matt Moulson as the starting left winger instead of Thomas Vanek or the Hockey Fights Cancer night at First Niagara Center, there was always something to talk about.
The first period began very wide open with the teams exchanging offensive zone pressure shift after shift. The Dallas Stars struck first on only their third shot off the game, a scrum in front of the net that saw Drew Stafford being out-muscled by Vernon Fiddler and scooping his own rebound past Miller.
The Sabres came back quickly with pressure of their own. Only 25 seconds after Fiddler got Dallas on the board, Matt Moulson was found alone in the slot and rocketed a snap-shot past Lehtonen to tie the game. Remind you of anyone? Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson drew assists on the play.
The play resumed much like it had started, back and forth action at both ends of the rink. At the 13:48 mark of the first period, Steve Ott came barreling into the offensive zone and dumped a puck past Gonchar. Ott, who thought he was interfered with on the play caught Gonchar with a one-handed “slash” and was called for the slashing minor.
While on his way to the box Ott pleaded his case and the referee deemed it fit to call him for an unsportsmanlike like conduct as well. Moral of the story; regardless of the truth, the ref is always right. The Sabres pk was successful in dealing with the first of the two minors, with Ryan Miller coming up huge on a few occasions to keep the game knotted at one a piece.
They were not so lucky in killing off the 2nd minor, when at the 3 minute mark, Goligoski put one top shelf past Miller from glove hand has marks. With having captured all of the momentum, the Stars ramped up their pressure and kept the Sabres on their heels in their own defensive zone. With only 2 minutes remaining in the first period, Tyler Seguin buried one to give Dallas the 3-1 lead. Heading into the break, the shots were 13 to 8, in favor of the Stars.
As one would expect, the second period began as the first had finished. Dallas was able to carry over their momentum and put Buffalo back onto their heels to start the second. At the 1:22 mark of the second period, Mark Pysyk took a holding call against Dallas’ Dillon.
The penalty was successfully killed off and with it came some energy from the Sabres. The teams would exchange chances for the next few minutes until a questionable icing call would get the Sabres hemmed into their own zone. Dallas used this as an opportunity to put their best line out against a tired Sabres line and managed to net one to go up 4-1.
Jamie Benn buried a backhander over the catching glove of a sprawled out Miller after an unbelievable pretty passing play from Cole to Seguin to himself. Though they were down, they were not out. The Sabres responded quickly with some great puck possession and zone time and forced Dallas’ Eakin (eh, anyone?) to take a tripping call.
The Sabres generated some fairly good chances on the power play, but none better than Grigorenko corralling a pass from Tyler Myers and ripping it Steve Ott who was camped in front of the Dallas net waiting to bury it. That he did. Steve Ott scored his second of the second goal of the season and put the Sabres within two.
Grigorenko and Myers drew the assists on the play. Again, the teams exchanged chances with both goalies looking stellar in net. Now, if you hadn’t had the luxury of watching the game up until this point you have to realize that Moulson’s stock was soaring through the roof.
He was making plays, causing turnovers, even back checking. At the 17:17 mark he made sure to rise even further in the hearts of Sabres fans everywhere when he cashed in on a juicy rebound from a Christian Ehrhoff shot. Moulson pulled the puck to his back hand and lifted it over the catching glove of Lehtonen to bring the Sabres within one goal.
Ehrhoff and Ennis drew the assists on Moulson’s second of the night. It was clear that Dallas was on their heels and Buffalo took full advantage of that. The last two minutes were all Buffalo. Unfortunately they were unable to net another goal before the buzzer sounded however the fans at First Niagara Center erupted with cheers and applause, almost guaranteed to be non-ironic at this point.
The Sabres came out for the third period with a very uncommon jump in their step and were looking to find an equalizing goal. At the 1:24 mark of the period Dallas’ Dillion laid a knee out on Marcus Foligno and he was none to happy, as he challenged Dillon to a fight. Neither player was able to land anything effective although multiple jabs were thrown, the fight was over almost as soon as it began as they called it off realizing it was not going to get anywhere.
With Dillon taking the extra minor it gave Buffalo another power play opportunity. Though the execution was wonderful they were unable to find the back of the net. Dallas managed to clear the puck on Nichushkin’s stick as he came out of the box (serving the kneeing minor for Dillon) and had an opportunity for a breakaway.
Ehrhoff flew back into position and made it impossible for Nichushkin to do anything worth while with the puck other than to dump it off of Miller’s right pad for a rebound. Pysyk cleared that away promptly and that was the end of that. The period continued the way it was expected, with wide open action on both ends…again.
The Sabres managed to draw a slashing call on Dallas, 8 minutes into the period. Though the power play was able to come away with chances, they were only that. The period passed fairly uneventful until about two minutes left on the clock. Ristolainen came up with a huge hit on Jamie Benn along the wall and forced him to ice the puck.
This allowed the Sabres to set up their offense and pull Miller without worrying about a turnover on the rush leading to an empty netter. The Sabres had quite a few chances and managed to sustain pressure. With 3.6 seconds on the clock, the Sabres were in prime position to set up a late game heroic goal.
Cody Hodgson won the face off, threw it to the front of the net for a sliding Tyler Ennis. The puck managed to find the back of Lehtonen’s glove before Ennis could connect on the pass. With a quick whistle and an official review the Sabres were able to have another chance, with only 1.2 seconds on the clock.
Steve Ott won the draw by pushing it toward the front of the net to find Hodgson’s stick. Cody connected on a backhander, only to find it going directly into the net-minder’s chest protector. The game ended in front of an estatic crowd who were pleased with the effort put out by the Sabres.
The Sabres take on the New York Rangers this Thursday, at Madison Square Garden. Puck drops at 7:00 pm, and the game is on MSG.