I was ready to write this piece saying this afternoon’s game belonged to two people. Rasmus Ristolainen made that three.
Ristolainen’s goal with 17 seconds left gave the Sabres a 3-2 win in a game they deserved and needed to win. Ristolainen was all over the ice all game long, literally and figuratively. He logged over 21 minutes on the ice and came up clutch with 2 goals, a power play blast in the 2nd and the game winner. Rasmus was solid defensively as well, using the body on multiple occasions to push Canucks out of the zone.
Second on that list is Linus Ullmark. I don’t think there’s any doubt this was the best game of his young career. Save after save after save, and good ones at that, kept Buffalo in the game.
“There were six or seven Grade A’s that he was big on,” said coach Bylsma. “He was probably our best player on the ice tonight.”
Ullmark made 35 saves in a game where he was constantly peppered. He came up huge, especially in the 3rd period when he made a couple of saves that were incredible. He stopped a Henrik Sedin one-timer on the Canucks power play early in the 3rd and then followed that by stoning Alex Burrows as he got fed right in front of the net point blank.
The third player is Jack Eichel. He does not make mistakes with the puck. Ever. He notched two assists, the first two of his career. How those are his first helpers are beyond me, he is always in the right position and making the right plays.
He should have had three assists, and possibly four if his teammates could have finished the play. Midway through the 1st period, Eichel went left to right across ice and Ryan O’Reilly couldn’t put the one timer past a sprawling Ryan Miller.
The other was late in the 2nd. Eichel led the charge into the zone coming up left wing, slowed and shifted to center ice and fired a pass to Matt Moulson in front of the net. Moulson couldn’t quite get his stick on what should have been a sure goal and I bet he would tell you that one needed to go up on the scoreboard.
Eichel set up the first Sabres goal with a nice play to keep the puck in the zone off of a great forecheck. He shifted the puck back to Mark Pysyk who gave the slap-pass to Jamie McGinn to put the Sabres on the board. But that was all started with Eichel’s play to keep the puck in the offensive zone.
On the second score, Eichel had some fancy stick-work as he cycled the offensive zone keeping the puck in. It was just a simple pass back to Ristolainen but he fired a bullet that Miller couldn’t see. Give credit to Jamie McGinn for being big in front of the net on an excellent screen.
This was a really good game from the Sabres for all 60 minutes. It would have been a shame if they let this one get away (think last year), but they regrouped and came out with the big W. They look to continue the momentum as they play the Lightning for the fourth time this year, Tuesday in Tampa.