Sabres shut down by San Jose, drop game, 4-1
The point streak in San Jose is over. After an incredible run of 10-0-1 inside the ‘Shark Tank’ over the last several years, the Sabres fell in regulation 4-1 to the Sharks, their first in a three-game swing across the West coast.
It wasn’t quite the collapse that the Sabres have suffered in recent games, but it was another case where the team lit an early fire and couldn’t keep it burning for sixty minutes.
They lit the lamp early–very early. Jack Eichel notched his 20th goal in his abbreviated season after just a minute and ten seconds played. Matt Moulson tossed him a crisp pass in front of the crease which San Jose netminder Martin Jones had to drop to the ice to follow, granting Eichel a yawning top of the net to fire it in.
The Sabres left the first period with the 1-0 lead, but a more alarming stat was that San Jose outshot them 20-9.
It was a portent of things to come. At 11:47 of the second period, the San Jose offense found its rhythm and never looked back.
While on the penalty kill, the Sabres failed to capitalize on what looked like a busted play. They couldn’t intercept the Shark’s unpolished passes before Joe Pavelski settled the puck and snapped one past Robin Lehner in what was San Jose’s 31st shot on the night.
Pavelski would later go on to score his second of the night early in the third period. A shot deflected off Josh Gorges in front of the Buffalo net and fell at Pavelski’s feet, allowing him to deliver an easy 28th goal on the season.
Logan Couture gave San Jose a 4-1 lead with just over five minutes remaining in regulation, as he employed a nifty poke check that flipped the puck over Lehner, who was diving in his own attempt to poke check the puck.
Pavelski wasn’t the only man to put two pucks in the net, although Eichel was certainly less thrilled by his ‘second tally’. The oddball play came as the second period drew to a close, when Brian Gionta sent a short pass to Eichel near the Sabres net. In what will be replayed on lowlight reels and likely find a spot on SportsCenter’s Not Top Ten plays later this week, Eichel made just the slightest mishandle as he drew in the pass. The puck took a weird bounce off his skate and slipped underneath an unsuspecting Lehner.
The goal, which put San Jose ahead 2-1 at the time, has been officially credited Micheal Haley of the Sharks.
Frustrations from that gaffe, aside, Lehner was solid in net, stopping 37 of 41 official shots on net. Martin Jones was all-but perfect for San Jose, surrendering to just one of Buffalo’s eventual 22 shots on the night.
The Sabres will remain in California for a few more days as they eye up contests against the Kings and the Ducks before the weekend. Their next stop in this West coast road trip is on Thursday, when they’ll visit the Kings in Los Angeles. Like tonight, that game will be a late one for fans in Buffalo, with a 10:30 PM EST puck drop.