[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Sabres continued their determined play, winning their third straight by beating the Devils 3-1 at the Prudential Center Tuesday night. The win snapped a five-game winless streak against the Devils, who have dropped five of their last six games. The Sabres are 7-2-2 in their last eleven games and have now won 11 more games than last season.
Ryan O’Reilly and Johan Larsson gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead. Jack Eichel potted an empty net to put the game away.
Calm, cool Chad Johnson improved to 10-2-1 in his last 14 appearances. He played a strong game, flashing leather, squaring up for shots and limiting rebounds. After the game, he admitted, “It really was a boring road game, a typical New Jersey Devils hockey game, but we stuck with our game.”
The game got off to a slow start. Actually calling it “slow” is indicating more entertainment value than actually was on the ice. The only thing noteworthy about the first period was Patrik Elias taking his first shift since December 19th. It was a real snoozer. Teams took turns dumping the puck in and chasing it. Shots were five apiece.
Inconceivably, things actually slowed down for most of the second period. Through the first thirteen minutes, shots were 3-3 (8-8 through 33 minutes). Both Marcus Foligno and Ryan O’Reilly had great chances from 20 feet out but fired wide. Hudson Fasching and Zemgus Girgensons had a two-on-one, but Cory Schneider made a nice save.
With Kyle Palmieri in the box for hooking, Ryan O’Reilly mercilessly added some excitement to the game, putting the Sabres on the board 1-0, with a power play goal. In one fluid motion, O’Reilly won an offensive zone faceoff to his brother Cal who dished it to Ristolainen at the blue line, who quickly sent it to over to Eichel on the left circle who one-timed a pass back to O’Reilly at the right circle.
O’Reilly launched a rocket, top corner past Schneider glove side. It was his 21st of the season, extending his point streak to five games. Entering the game, he had nine points (3G, 6A) in nine games since returning from an injury that sidelined him for 11 games.
“Our coach is always preaching to be ready to shoot, that’s how we have to be all the time” – Ryan O’Reilly
The Sabres gave themselves a cushion just twelve seconds into the third period. Johan Larsson picked off a bad clearing pass out of the Devils’ zone and snapped a wrister that deflected off Adam Henrique’s stick past Schneider for his 10th of the season and a 2-0 Buffalo lead. The tally also gave Larsson a career-high 10 goals and 17 points for the season.
With 5:29 to go in the third, the Devils finally got on the board with a power play goal. Jacob Josefson blasted one from the right circle by Johnson, making it 2-1. A several minutes later, with Schneider pulled, Jack Eichel outmuscled Mike Sislo and scored an empty net goal to end the night. Using his strength and body positioning, he left several Devils strewn on the ice in his wake as he stayed with the puck and willed it in the open net.
It’s not surprising New Jersey is in danger of finishing last in the league with a 2.20 goals for average. They played a lifeless game of dump and chase. Cory Schneider lost for the ninth time in his last 10 games.
The Sabres have two games left in the season: at home against Columbus on Friday and on the road vs. the Islanders on Saturday.