Once again Ryan O’Reilly came up big for the Sabres. His goal with four minutes to play in regulation tied the game for Buffalo. Just a minute later, the Sabres kept the pressure and Johan Larsson found himself in front of the Detroit net alone and picked the top right corner for his first goal of the season to give Buffalo a 2-1 win in Motown.
The last time the Sabres won in Detroit was Oct 13th, 2006, during the famous 2006 October storm. It was also Buffalo’s first regulation victory in Detroit since March 6, 1994.
Much of the first two periods felt like all Detroit, with the Red Wings routinely carrying the puck in and getting opportunities on Chad Johnson. To Buffalo’s credit, the majority of shots came from the side and the team limited Detroit’s opportunities straight on or gave Johnson a clear lane to see.
Detroit’s only goal came Pavel Datsyuk entered the Sabres zone and fed Brad Richards who one timed a shot over Chad Johnson’s right shoulder.
Detroit kept pressing and was rewarded with a penalty shot when Mike Weber slashed Tomas Jurco on a breakaway. What followed was possibly the worst penalty shot ever. Jurco came in as slow as a sloth from the left and proceeded to cut to the middle shooting rather far out from Johnson who made the easy save.
Despite being outplayed in the period and outshot, 13-9, the Sabres kept fighting to end the period down only 1-0 with a lot of credit to Chad Johnson for his strong play.
The third period saw Buffalo get their legs back a little bit with Evander Kane and Marcus Foligno creating some nice chances. Johan Larsson also had a few golden opportunities but couldn’t cash in.
You got the sense Buffalo could at least tie the game, but needed to push the play a little bit. With under five to go the Sabres did that. On the Sabres first goal Rasmus Ristolianen got the puck back to Sam Reinhart at the point, then ripped a shot low in front that O’Reilly one timed for the equalizer.
Buffalo didn’t stop. When Kronwall failed to get the puck out of Detroit’s zone, Mike Weber one timed a shot in front. It rebounded off Mzarek to Johan Larsson who scored up high to give Buffalo their first lead, 2-1.
The Red Wings used a coach’s challenge, trying to say Buffalo was offside entering the zone, but it was called a good goal.
For the last minute and half Buffalo did a decent job keeping Detroit’s shots to the outside. With 19 seconds remaining, Detroit got their best chance to tie it up when Kronwall’s shot rebounded to a wide-open Gustav Nyquist. Johnson robbed Nyquist with a brilliant diving save to the left to preserve the Buffalo victory.
“I just made the save. It was desperation,” said Johnson.
“They had a couple flurries at net and that cage was absolutely wide open and Chad makes a desperation, dynamic move to make the save,” Coach Bylsma added.
This was not Buffalo’s best game in terms of overall play, but they deserve a ton of credit for persevering and fighting to the end. Youngsters Reinhart and Ristolianen again made an impact as did Ryan O’Reilly continued his impressive play. He’s now on an 8 game point streak (4G, 7A, 11pts). Last season, when Larsson was scoring and being an impact player for the Sabres, he did so at center.
Chad Johnson was absolutely brilliant all night making a lot of big saves to keep Buffalo in the game especially during the second. Petr Mrazek was also good for Detroit making some nice stops and was hard to be faulted on either goal.
Chad Johnson: With the exception of the Calgary game last week, Johnson has been excellent. He’s 5-3-1, with a 1.72 GAA, and .940 save percentage since November. He made the big save when Buffalo needed it.
Rasmus Ristolainen: With respect to O’Reilly’s great play lately, Risto has been equally as good if not better. The 21 year old Finn has consistently been spectacular in his own end at limiting chances, while finding the right pass at the right time in the offensive end.
The Sabres Powerplay: Buffalo, with the NHL’s 2nd ranked power play went 0-for-3.
Matt Moulson: He’s clearly struggling. Effort is not the issue as much as pressing too much and not seeing the ice. He finished the night with the worst Corsi of any Sabre with a 38% and just looks a step behind.
What’s Next: The Sabres play tomorrow night against New Jersey in Newark at 7:00 p.m.