A weak first period put Buffalo in a hole that they couldn’t come out of as the Sabres fell 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers Sunday night in Rexall Place.
Jack Eichel opened the scoring 6:58 into the game with his 9th of the season. He took a backhand shot that beat Oilers goaltender Andres Nilsson on the low blocker side. This came after Eichel took a very nice one-touch pass from captain Brian Gionta.
Buffalo had problems in their own end and it came to pay just three minutes later after Taylor Hall took a shot and Teddy Purcell deflected it by Sabres goalie Chad Johnson to tie the game at 1. The goal was his 5th of the year. This goal came after Oilers center Leon Draisaitl won an offensive zone faceoff over Ryan O’Reilly, underscoring the importance of faceoffs, especially in your own zone.
As the first period continued, the Sabres continued to have more trouble in the defensive end. In a matter of three minutes, Edmonton scored two goals to take a 3-1 lead. The 2nd goal came with 3:54 left in the period by Jordan Eberle, his 5th of the season.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who got the lone assist on the Eberle goal, stole the puck from Sam Reinhart and found Eberle wide open in from of the Sabres net. This goal does not happen if Zach Bogosian covers Eberle better in front of the net.
Bogosian was about a step behind where Eberle was when the goal happened. Taylor Hall netted the Oilers 3rd goal, his 11th of the year, coming on the power play. This goal isn’t fully Chad Johnsons fault, but he could have been in better position to make the save.
Purcell was in front of the net and made a backhand pass which went off of a Sabres defender and right to Hall’s stick for an easy tap in goal. Johnson failed to react to Purcell’s pass and threw his glove out in desperation when Hall took the shot. With a better reaction, Johnson would have been in better position to make the save.
In the 2nd and 3rd periods, Buffalo played better but had trouble finding the back of the net. However, after Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba took an interference penalty, Ryan O’Reilly got his 9th of the season, bringing the Sabres within one. It was a great pass from Bogosian.
But that was all Buffalo could put up on the scoreboard as Nilsson was a brick wall for the rest of the game. Late in the 2nd, Edmonton got back their 2 goal lead when enforcer Luke Gazdic got his first of the year after he went to the net and put the puck in with his skate.
The goal was reviewed but ruled a good goal as Gazdic did not kick the puck into the net. Oscar Klefbom and Anton Lander were credited assists for the goal. Despite the pressure Buffalo put on Edmonton, they could not get another goal. Nilsson made 32 saves and was named first star of the game.
After the game, Buffalo flew to Vancouver. They’ll face the Canucks Monday night, in their second of three games on this Western Canadian road trip. Puck drop is at 10 p.m.