Not only did the Buffalo Sabres debut their third jersey tonight, but they had a very important game against the Detroit Red Wings at the First Niagara Center.
Both Detroit and Buffalo began the game very flat, with shots slowly trickling in. For Detroit, this made sense, as they played the Ottawa Senators last night. For Buffalo, the slow start was troubling, because they have been off for two days.
“Good to get the start we had,” said Hodgson. “We didn’t take advantage of a tired team though.”
Although their start was poor, Buffalo took care of an important task in scoring first.
At 7:47 in the period, Cody Hodgson deked out Wings’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. Hodgson skated to his right slightly, and tucked the puck in behind Gustavsson’s left skate. This was Hodgson’s 8th of the season, and the Sabres first of the game.
“It was obviously a good play,” said Hodgson. “I knew I had time, I just needed to be a little more patient.”
While Buffalo led throughout the rest of the period, Detroit began to get their legs under them. The Wings led both teams in shots, 14-6.
Heading into the second period, it was clear that Buffalo was in for a rude awakening from Detroit.
The Red Wings began the period, fast and furious. Once the puck entered their offensive zone, Detroit attacked the net and would find success through hard work.
Only 30 seconds into the second period, it was Darren Helm, who scored his 5th goal of the season, on a nifty backhand, tied things up.
From here, Detroit would dominate the first half of the second period. The Wings were physical on and off the puck, and often had the Sabres playing catch up.
Momentum would shift slightly in Buffalo’s direction, following a penalty shot by Steve Ott. While Ott was unable to put Buffalo ahead, the attempt surely got the Sabres fired up and seemed to shift the heavily tilted momentum.
A handful of chances followed for Buffalo, including Zemgus Girgensons on a mini-breakaway and Drew Stafford on a nice wrap around attempt.
Through two periods, Buffalo would find themselves tied 1-1, but trailing in shots 22-15.
The third period began well for the Sabres, with a power play opportunity less than a minute in. While Buffalo did not score on the man advantage, momentum was rising for the team.
Buffalo continued to get offensive opportunities, and played defensively with a bend, don’t break mantra.
Unfortunately, costly mental mistakes would lead to the downfall of the team’s decent third period start.
At 11:13, Tyler Myers was called for a cross-checking penalty, that sent Detroit to the power play.
“I don’t think in a 1-1 score that it was a major cross checking penalty,” Nolan said. “That’s how the bell bounces. When you’re a winning team, you get the breaks and when you’re a losing team, you don’t.”
While the call may have been on the fence, it would not stop what happened next.
At 11:43 of the third, on the power play, Johan Franzen scored his 6th goal of the season, and the 2nd goal of the night for Detroit. This would end up being the game-winning goal.
The Sabres tried to mount a comeback, but just could not muster any strength offensively.
Daniel Alfredsson would seal the game for Detroit with an empty net goal, his 4th goal of the season, at 19:11.
Buffalo would go on to lose this game, 3-1.
Following the game, Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller sounded a little frustrated.
“We can’t get by and feel like 1-1 is good,” Miller said. “We have to go for it at home. Especially with a team coming off 3 in 4 nights. You can’t be satisfied with a little glimmer of what we feel is the right way to play.”
Head coach Ted Nolan also was left searching for answers following the loss.
“We’re trying to find a consistent level of play here,” Nolan said. “When they get momentum, we look like we’re tired. I think it’s a state of mind. It is frustrating.”
The Sabres play again this Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens at the First Niagara Center. Puck drops just after 7 PM, and the game will be broadcast on MSG.