The name of the game was movement for Buffalo last night, as being alive on their skates led to a 4-2 victory in Montreal. The Sabres have now won two in a row dating to before the NHL All-Star Break.
This was a really solid effort for the Sabres. They came out strong and took the lead, ended up giving it back to Ottawa, but replied with a fantastic 3rd period with three goals. Maybe a better team doesn’t lose the advantage and wins a little easier, but this team is resilient and fighting.
The most impressive part of this game was the hustle and movement for all 60 minutes. They took advantage of what looked like a Montreal team slowed down a little from playing the night before.
The action from Buffalo, skating hard and firing the puck around, really led to all three goals. As cliche as it sounds, they have to realize good things happen when you’re active and head to the front of the net.
Marcus Foligno opened up the scoring on a beautiful feed from Zemgus Girgensons. Foligno skated right down center ice and flipped a wrist shot by Mike Condon for the game’s first goal. Marcus is playing much better of late and has seemed to find his stride in a more comfortable role on this squad.
Jamie McGinn ticked the scoreboard even when he netted a one-timer from Rasmus Ristolainen on the power play. The PP unit was much better, seeing sharp cross-ice passes that kept the defense guessing. Risto had the puck on the right point and used Sam Reinhart as a screen to find McGinn who put it behind Condon to tie the game. It was McGinn’s 11th of the year, no doubt increasing his value for the upcoming trade deadline.
Johan Larsson gave the Sabres the lead for good as he crashed the net later in the 3rd period. When you get pressure in front of the goalie’s face, great things are going to happen. It did once again as Jake McCabe threw one near the net and Larsson deflected in his 2nd of the year.
Robin Lehner had another outstanding night as he’s been spectacular since returning from an opening night ankle injury. For his 4th straight start he gave up two goals, notching at least 33 saves in each of them. Fans have been hesitant to give GM Tim Murray praise for acquiring Lehner so far, but he is proving that he may be worth it.
Of the two goals that Lehner gave up, one was on him and one was a good goal from Montreal. Dale Weise ended up with a cross-ice pass that beat Lehner on the power play, similar to McGinn’s goal for Buffalo. The second one was more-so on Lehner. Ryan O’Reilly didn’t win a defensive zone faceoff for once, and struggled as Alex Galchenyuk skated around him in front of Lehner. It was a decent backhand that went 5-hole, but one I’m sure the goalie would tell you he’d like to have back.
Lehner more than made up for it later in the 3rd. First, he stoned Max Pacioretty who was in alone after Ristolainen poorly played a bouncing puck. After the Sabres took the lead for good, Lehner stood on his head to make sure Montreal wouldn’t tie it up. Blasts from PK Subban were sent aside and Lehner denied Tomas Plekanec when it appeared he had an empty side of the net. He was quite deserving of his 3rd star.
The moral of the story tonight is that when you’re active on your skates and rush the front of the net, good things are bound to happen. Coach Bylsma has to be happy with his team’s performance in this one. But the real question is, can they go out and do it again? Have some model of consistency? We’ll find out Thursday as they take on the Bruins at 7:00 pm at First Niagara Center.