The Buffalo Sabres welcomed the Minnesota Wild to the First Niagara Center tonight in what can be described as a very important game for the Sabres run toward the playoffs.
The game started out with the Sabres looking very lethargic. Throughout most of the first period, all the skaters were slow and clumsy with their passing and stickhandling.
The clumsyness would catch up when Jordan Leopold mishandled a puck in the Sabres zone. That turnover would turn into the Wild’s first goal, credited to Steven Kampfer.
“I was concerned heading into tonight’s game,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “I wasn’t surprised at how well Minnesota started the game.”
Heading into the second period, the Sabres needed to change things up or risk being down even further.
Right after the puck dropped, it seemed evident that whatever was said between periods had kicked in.
1:12 into the second period, the line of Vanek/Hodgson/Tropp produced a grinding goal.
Hodgson crashed the net with the shot, Vanek followed and put the puck right under the crossbar.
The Sabres would continue to push the pace throughout the entire period, evident by the 17-4 shot total at the end of the period.
Aside from the goal, another thing to note that occurred in the period.
Rookie Travis Turnbull was dragged to the ice by Wild winger Nick Johnson. This encounter resulted in Turnbull’s first NHL fight and it was a dandy.
The Sabres came out in the third period and saw blood in the water.
The Wild took a penalty 53 seconds into the period, allowing a golden opportunity for the Sabres.
Buffalo would take advantage of that opportunity, with Marcus Foligno tipping in a Tyler Myers shot less than a minute into the power play. The goal was Foligno’s 6th of the season.
When asked about Foligno’s goal, Lindy Ruff said, “Tyler’s shot found some puck luck and the big man was in front of the net.”
The Sabres sensed they were in the driver’s seat against an offensively challenged Wild team as they seemingly coasted throughout most of the period.
Late in the third, the Wild were charged with a hooking penalty. After pulling their goaltender, both sides were even at 5.
Right before the buzzer sounded to end the game, Cody Hodgson notched his 19th goal of the season, an empty netter, at 19:59.
With this victory, the Buffalo Sabres move into 8th place and back into a playoff spot for the first time in 96 days.
The stay in 8th may not last more than a day but it does show that the Sabres continue to move in the right direction towards pulling off an improbable comeback.
The Sabres will take the ice again on Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals in Washington. The puck drops at 7 PM and the game will be broadcast on MSG.