The bookends were nice — the Sabres opened the scoring and Jack Eichel scored his third goal of the year in the final minute of play—but a dismal stretch in the heart of tonight’s game left the Sabres with a tough 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The closing minutes of the first and second period hurt the worst. The Sabres had two different one-goal leads evaporate in front of them as both frames came to a close. The Devils evened the score with 50 seconds left in the first, and just 49 seconds left in the second.
“I just don’t like the timing of the goals,” said Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma following the game. “We needed a save, we needed that puck not to go in at the end of the first, and we needed a save at the end of the second. I think as a result, [The Devils] tie the game, they tie the game again, and we lose it.”
Linus Ullmark made his NHL debut tonight, stopping 24 of 28 shots. The 24-year-old Swede was called up yesterday from the Rochester Americans after a strong start to the AHL season.
He gave us a chance, he’s a really good goalie, and he’s young,” said Tyler Ennis after the game. “He’s only going to get better, too, but I thought he played well.”
The Sabres offense was fueled by a power play that continues to put pucks in the net this season. Tyler Ennis put Buffalo on the board first and earned his second goal of the year during a power play that was practically over before it started, firing a shot past New Jersey netminder Cory Schneider just 12 seconds after Adam Henrique marched to the box for slashing.
Ryan O’Reilly collected his third goal this season by being in the right place at the right time during a power play at 2:31 of the second period, just as a roughing call to Devils defenseman Adam Larsson was expiring. The puck dropped in front of O’Reilly after caroming off Schneider, and O’Reilly wasted no time in backhanding it into the net before Schneider could cross the crease.
A Sabres rally was nearly completed at 19:15 of the third period when the Sabres were on the power play and down by two scores. Jack Eichel let a simple wrister loose through a crowd that found its way past Schneider and gave the rookie his third NHL goal.
The Devils’ offense came from both hard-nosed play in front of the Buffalo net, and from highlight-reel movement on the ice. Two different scrambles around Ullmark led to New Jersey goals by Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri.
David Schlemko earned his first goal of the year through some absolutely gorgeous passing by multiple Devils players through the Buffalo zone. Henrique added a second tally on the night when he grabbed a horrendous giveaway and streaked into Buffalo’s end of the ice unopposed before backhanding it past Ullmark. Henrique’s second goal in the game came during a Sabres’ power play, and all-but deflated the Buffalo squad midway through the third period.
“The power play’s been solid, we gotta keep scoring, and clean up a lot of things,” said Ennis. “But at the same time, it was a short-handed goal against that ruined it for us. It was my fault, and I have to do better.”
Ennis and the Sabres will have a chance to put disappointing back-to-back nights behind them on Tuesday when they head off to Philadelphia to meet the Flyers for the first time this season. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. puck drop.