A New Hope
Tonight was not the Sabres best game. No one would argue that over the past few seasons during the great tank this was the type of game the Sabres lose 4-1. But this seasons things are decidedly different with the efforts from their improved defense and 22-year-old rookie Linus Ullmark.
The first period opened as a relatively even affair with Buffalo and Florida playing a tight period that saw only 14 shots total (six for Buffalo, eight for Florida). Early on Garret Wilson was denied by Ullmark in front to keep the score at zero.
The Sabres first big chance saw a nice pass by Moulson up to Gionta who was robbed by Luongo who was able to get enough glove on to stop from going in. Buffalo scored with just 32 seconds left in the first, with Gionta scoring from the slot on the right slide with a nice pass behind the net from Matt Moluson.
Ristolainen did a good job pushing the puck up into the Florida zone to help create the opportunity. Buffalo deserves credit for successfully killing off both Florida power plays despite being ranked 25th on the PK coming into the game.
Heading into the second though Florida really started to dominate play out shooting Buffalo 17-7. Just over three minutes into the period Ullmark made a great save on a one timer to his right by Dave Bolland who was denied on a late rebound.
For a lot of this period the Sabres defense was forced back towards their net making it hard to push the puck out. The Sabres has what they thought was their second when Tyler Ennis jammed home a goal to the left side low on Luongo.
The Panthers challenged the goal saying Ennis was offside coming into the zone as Eichel carried the puck in reversing the goal. Speaking of Eichel, after a three game point streak was held quiet with zero shots and little opportunities.
Jonathan Hubdereau was able to score minutes into the second during a Florida power play. He shot a light backhander up high after a scramble in front with the puck falling to the right side where Hubdereau was.
Buffalo challenged the goal saying Hubderau interfered with Ullmark, but it was shown that McCabe pushed Hubderau into Ullmark. Florida kept the pressure on and had quiet a few nice chances on Ullmmark.
Late in the period Buffalo took back the lead with a goal from Cody Franson who took a nice shot stepping up from left point to beat Luongo. Florida failed to pressure the Sabres skaters up top which allowed the opportunity.
Dmitry Kulikov took a hooking penalty 2:18 into the third to give Buffalo their first power play of the game. The Sabres converted this opportunity with Reinhart deflecting the game winner in after a nice shot from Tyler Ennis on the right point less then four minutes in.
The rest of the period Florida poured on the pressure and Buffalo did their best to hold off the waves. With four minutes to go the Sabres got caught deep in their own end allowing Aaron Ekblad an opportunity to take a slap shot from the point.
The shot was deflected in by the Panthers Vincent Trocheck to close the gap to a 3-2 Buffalo lead. McGinn tried to mark his man to stop the pass, but Eichel really should’ve marked up higher also, he was to low in his own end.
The last minute was a frenzy in front of the Buffalo net with Huberdeau being denied an opportunity to right of Ullmark and then Ullmark marking a great save while being down on the ice on Kulikov to preserve a 3-2 Buffalo win. Buffalo was out shot in the final two period 30 to 13, but Ullmark was a wall and Sabres converted on their scoring chances.
The Sabres are now on a three game win streak and play next Saturday November 14th at home against the Sharks at 7:00pm.
Linus Ullmark- It goes without saying he was sensational tonight. The young Swede has been a revelation in net. He stopped 36 of 38 shots tonight making some great point blank saves. In his last five games he has had a save percentage of .946 or better in four of them with the Tampa Bay game being his only blemish, but that game was not hit fault given the teams terrible play. If he keeps up this play for the long term, the narrative for this seasons expectations could quickly change from one of growth and learning, to a team that has legitimate playoff expectations.
Tyler Ennis- I remarked a few games ago that Ennis seemed off and not in sync with his line mates. Maybe it was the assist to setup the win Saturday against the Canucks that has got him going again, but he had a great game. Whether it was driving possession into the Florida zone or the disallowed goal which he worked hard to jam home, Ennis could be found all over the ice.
Jack Eichel- He was not the worst player on the ice tonight, but this was the first time he was held in check by not registering a single shot and his defensive efforts left a bit to be desired. He should have made a better play to help the defense on the second Panther goal and seemed to just be floating around during it. This in no way is an indictment that he is terrible player or not meeting expectations, but this is the type of game he hopefully learns from as opposing’s defenses focus on him more and make his life more difficult.
Disallowed Goals- For the second time this season Buffalo got burned by the coaches challenge with Ennis being offside when Eichel carried it in. Regardless of the fact I think it is crap that an offside can be called that late into a play and reviewed, the Sabres cannot allow this to keep happening. It did not end up hurting them tonight, but it did against the Senators in the first game and opposing coaches will keep using the challenge if Buffalo keeps getting caught jumping early into the zone.