Although they kept it close for the majority of the game, a third period collapse cost the Buffalo Sabres yet another game as they lost 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings Friday night at the First Niagara Center.
The first period was relatively uneventful, with neither team generating any convincing opportunities. Buffalo’s penalty kill played a strong first period, stopping the Red Wings’ power play twice in the first 20 minutes of play. The Sabres, who are ranked seventh in power play percentage throughout the league, had only one opportunity with the extra man in the first, and were unable to capitalize.
The Red Wings would pour it on in the second, but Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner would stop all 15 shots that came at him. Lehner had a number of impressive saves throughout the period, keeping the Sabres alive in the second. Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek would stop all nine of the Sabres’ shots in the period, and the period would end in a scoreless draw.
Buffalo’s penalty kill would continue to shine in the third period, killing off a four minute double-minor following Marcus Foligno’s high stick to Red Wings’ rookie Dylan Larkin. This is the third consecutive game that the Sabres have killed off a four minute penalty.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Dylan Larkin, who entered the game with the same amount of points as Sabres’ rookie Jack Eichel, would bank the puck off of Lehner’s pad and into the net, giving the Red Wings’ the 1-0 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. Sabres’ head coach Dan Bylsma would challenge the play, believing that Red Wings’ center Luke Glendening was offsides, but the goal would stand after further review.
Henrik Zetterberg would extend the Red Wings’ lead just minutes later, scoring a nice goal off of a pass from Larkin after the Sabres left him all alone. Glendening would shoot the puck into the empty net with less than a minute remaining, securing the 3-0 win for the Red Wings.
Although it was in a losing effort, Robin Lehner undoubtedly played his strongest game of the season, stopping 42 out of Detroit’s 44 shots. Every Detroit skater was able to register at least one shot on Lehner, making fans wonder how the Buffalo goaltender only let in two goals. Lehner’s teammates were upset that they were unable to match their goalie’s performance, as Sabres’ defenseman Mike Weber stated that the team “…didn’t do enough for him.”
The Sabres’ offense was nonexistent in the game, mustering only 19 shots on goal, and only two in the third period. Buffalo was not able to create many strong scoring opportunities throughout the game, and when they did, Petr Mrazek was there to shut them down. Sabres’ forward Brian Gionta commented on the team’s lack of offense, stating that “(Mrazek) is a good goalie, we just didn’t challenge him.”
Defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian tied for the lead in ice time for the Sabres, both racking up 28:15 in ice time. The pairing did what they could to help the team, as both players blocked multiple shots throughout the game, but ultimately, their efforts were not enough.
Buffalo’s next game is Monday night at Madison Square Garden, as the Sabres take on the New York Rangers, who have won three out of their previous four games.