Things were different from the get-go in Philadelphia. Mainly in part to the injury to Evander Kane, coach Bylsma once again switched up his lines before this game, but he may have found a little bit of a connection with this one.
Nick Deslauriers’ play the last few games was noticed and he was bumped up to the first line with Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Ennis. This was not a knock on anyone, but a credit to Deslauriers. He has played tremendously since the preseason, and if he could find any bit of a scoring touch could be a dynamic top six power forward.
That line opened up the scoring six minutes in on an all-effort play from by Ennis. Behind the net, he and O’Reilly were fighting with two Flyers for possession. Instead of continuing to the sideboards, Ennis spun back towards the net and went backhand as he was falling down to beat Steve Mason. A really impressive individual performance from Ennis.
The Sabres did a great job of being patient with the puck all game and that paid off in their 2nd goal. On a power play that looked really bad for the first minute or so, they settled down and worked the puck in the offensive zone.
Rasmus Ristolainen could have put one on net from the point instead he kept possession a little longer and found Gionta on the quick pass. It was tic-tac-toe from there as Gionta went to Johan Larsson who fed Jamie McGinn in front for his 1st goal as a Sabre.
The 3rd goal for the Sabres got waved off for being kicked in, but it was something that needs to keep being done. McGinn snuck behind the defense for a 2-on-1 and threw it on net. He got the rebound he was looking for but Marcus Foligno couldn’t get a stick on it. Sometimes the rebounds off shots are better opportunities than the shots themselves, and I think they’re starting to see that.
All people are going to remember about Chad Johnson from this game is his ridiculous save in overtime to keep the game going, but he didn’t play a terrific game. He got beat bad by Chris Vandevelde near the end of the 1st to cut the lead in half. It was poor transition D on the cross-ice pass, but Johnson needs to make that save every time.
He had trouble moving side to side in the net all night. Right after he gave up the goal, Philadelphia went on the power play and on three straight attempts they passed from the left point to the right slot and had fantastic opportunities.
Johnson struggled to be in position for any of them and luckily managed to escape without a goal. He let up a couple terrible rebounds and misplayed the puck behind the net a few times. Give him credit for keeping his head in the game and making the save on the point blank shot in OT.
The new 2nd line of Larsson-Eichel-Reinhart was one of my favorites and one I think needs to stick. All three can play with the puck on their stick, and they really open up opportunities for each other. The goal from Jake McCabe was due to Eichel keeping the puck in for Larsson who got it back to the D-man, Cody Franson. He shuffled it over to McCabe but it was the forwards doing the work to keep the puck in the zone.
Speaking of Cody Franson, he was one of a few players who really stood out to me. He played a complete game, which we don’t see too often. Obviously not afraid to get the puck on net, but he was getting after it a little bit in the defensive zone as well. Fitting right in with that was another stud performance from Rasmus Ristolainen. He was the most physical Sabre on the ice, and needs to continue that.
The Sabres played really well in the 1st and 3rd periods. When they can do it for a full 60 minutes they are going to be a dangerous team. This was a game that had no reason to go to overtime, but coming out with the two points is all that matters. They go to Pittsburgh next on Thursday.