Questionable calls, Sabres’ collapse costs game in 4-3 loss
The Buffalo Sabres let one slip through their fingers on Sunday, losing 4-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. Despite exploding out to a three goal advantage in the first period, the Sabres allowed four unanswered goals, losing their second game in as many nights. Anders Nilsson held strong in net through the first two periods, saving 27 of 29 shots, though Pittsburgh’s offensive onslaught to close the contest proved too much for the backup netminder.
The Sabres came out hot in the first period, trying to erase the disappointment from another shootout loss the evening prior at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring at 6:19 off of an excellent tic-tac-toe set up by line mates Evander Kane and Brian Gionta. The goal was O’Reilly’s 16th of the season.
Gionta would add a goal of his own at 14:53, taking advantage of the Sabres’ second power-play opportunity of the period. Matt Moulson delivered an excellent centering pass from behind the net, finding Gionta to give Buffalo a 2-0 advantage.
Jack Eichel continued his nine game point streak notching his 16th of the season less than four minutes later to close the period. The Sabres outshot the Penguins, 21-13 in the first. Penguins goaltender Matt Murray was pulled before the end of the period in favor of veteran Marc Andre Fleury
As has been the case throughout the season, the Sabres allowed their opponent back into the game with a poorly played second period. At 7:45 Justin Schultz narrowed the Penguins deficit to 3-1. Superstar Evgeni Malkin contributed later on the power-play to get his squad within one heading into the second intermission. The goal was Malkin’s 29th of the season.
Nilsson and the Sabres held strong for a majority of the third period as they tried to squeak out a win again against arguably the best team in the NHL. The outlook seemed bright until Jake Guentzel tied the game at 16:14, registering his eighth tally of the year. Though it was under review, the referees determined that it was indeed a good goal. Less than a minute later, up-and-comer Connor Sheary gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead that they would carry through to the finish, sealing another heartbreaking loss for the Sabres.
Buffalo did have an opportunity on the man advantage for the last 90 seconds of the contest, however Marc Andre Fleury continued his stellar performance in relief of the struggling Murray.
The Sabres had an opportunity to close the gap this weekend but ultimately lost two very winnable games, securing only one point out of a possible four to close the weekend. This has been an ongoing theme with Dan Bylsma’s squad.
Though the Sabres have had flashes of late game brilliance this season, they have also snatched defeat from the jaws of victory far too many times. With 16 games remaining on the schedule, the Sabres currently sit at 27-27-12, five points out of playoff position. With a grueling schedule to close out the 16-17’ campaign, their playoff hopes appear bleak.
Buffalo will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at KeyBank Center. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.