With all of the injuries the Buffalo Sabres have suffered through the first quarter of this season, they have had a total of nine rookies in their line-up at various times. With youth comes enthusiasm, energy, and unfortunately mistakes. It was one of those mistakes, an ill advised cross ice pass by rookie Marc Andre Gragnani that ultimately led to the Sabres defeat tonight.
After forcing overtime on a goal by Drew Stafford in the waning moments of the third with Ryan Miller on the bench, Gragnani’s offensive zone turnover in the extra session led to a breakaway by Claude Giroux. Giroux had a few steps on Gragnani, and Christian Ehrhoff so he took his time approaching Miller and got Ryan to open his pads where Claude deftly slid home the game winning goal between Miller’s legs.
The night started off much better for the Sabres. Buffalo was very aggressive from the drop of the puck, and midway through the period on a tic-tac-toe passing play Ville Leino put the Sabres up 1-0 on the power-play. Leino’s goal gives him four points in the last three games as he continues to fight off early season struggles.
Later in the first period Zack Kassian rifled home a wrister from just inside the Philly blueline to put the Sabres up by two goals. The Sabres kept up their aggressive play and Tyler Ennis used his speed along the wall to draw a tripping penalty by Andrej Meszaros. On the ensuing powerplay Thomas Vanek lit the lamp on a wrist shot from the left circle that trickled past Ilya Bryzgalov between his blocker and the goalpost. Up three goals to none, it looked as though the Sabres were in complete control.
But it was a game plagued by turnovers for Buffalo. After opening up the game with a 3-0 lead and at one point a 10-3 shot advantage in the first period, a last second turnover by Nathan Gerbe at the Sabres blueline led to a Maxime Talbot goal with 1.5 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
The sloppy breakouts and inaccurate passing would continue in the second period where goals by Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, and Jaromir Jagr would put the Flyers up 4-3 by the end of the frame. Philadelphia completely dominated period number two, out-shooting Buffalo 9-5, and scoring on 33% of their shots.
The third period was very tight checking and defensive minded, although the Sabres had cleaned up some of their defensive zone play, they were generating little offense at the other end. Drew Stafford had the best two opportunites to score in the period, one on a cross ice feed from Derek Roy which just jumped over his stick blade. The other on a turnaround backhand in front of the net that was stopped point blank by Bryzgalov.
So it was only fitting that with Ryan Miller pulled for the extra attacker, the Jason Pominville pass from behind the net would find its way on to Stafford’s stick blade where he would deposit the puck in the top right corner of the net to send the game into overtime.
In overtime Claude Giroux made quick work of the Sabres, scoring his 16th goal and his NHL leading 36th point to lead the Flyers to victory.
Buffalo’s special teams fared well tonight going 2 for 4 on the powerplay, and killing off the lone Flyers PP opportunity.
With the loss the Sabres have now dropped to 6-8-2 at home. The win improved Philadelphia’s league leading road record to 10-3-1.
In the second period Flyer’s defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon hit Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe from behind. Gerbe was slow to get off the ice, and did not return. The Sabres listed him as having an upper body injury.