The Buffalo Sabres are an energetic, promising young team. They’re just not an elite team yet.
It really showed tonight when they played a team that is undeniably elite—the now 15-4 Dallas Stars, led by former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. The Sabres were outshot, out-worked and altogether outplayed up until the tail end of the game, all leading to a 3-1 loss inside First Niagara Center.
“For the most part we played them straight up,” said head coach Dan Bylsma after the game. “I thought we did a pretty good job against a pretty good hockey team that is very dangerous with that speed and skill.”
The signs came early that Buffalo had a tough test in front of them. They gave up the opening goal just 51 seconds into the contest when Valeri Nichuskin tossed in his second this season. A scramble at the Buffalo crease left Sabres’ netminder Linus Ullmark unaware of where the puck had slipped to, and Nichuskin found it before Ullmark could to put Dallas ahead in short order.
Dallas doubled their lead at 7:35 in the third period with Jason Spezza’s seventh tally this season—a rifle of a shot that came down the middle and beat Ullmark. Despite the inauspicious start, Ullmark rebounded well and gave the Sabres another strong effort. He finished the night with 26 saves on 28 shots.
The Sabres finally came to life late in the third on a power play that saw Ryan O’Reilly net his sixth this season and rally the crowd that had been relatively quiet since the opening puck drop. They got even louder when Buffalo appeared to tie the game just a few minutes later on a power play goal by Sam Reinhart, but the call was reversed with a Dallas coach’s challenge due to the Sabres being offside on the play. It was the third time this year that Buffalo has had a goal called back because of a challenge, and all for the same reason.
“I knew it was offside before the puck went in,” Bylsma admitted. “I didn’t know one hundred percent, but I had a pretty good idea […] I didn’t need to wait to hear the call. It’s certainly disappointing.”
The rest of the team seemed disappointed too, as the Sabres came out flat to finish out the remainder of that power play, and until the final horn. Dallas sealed the win with an empty net goal by Tyler Seguin, his 10th goal this season.
Following two tough losses inside First Niagara Center, the Sabres will head on the road to meet the St. Louis Blues for the first time this season. That game will be on Thursday night with an 8 PM EST start time.