Western Conference teams pretty much ruined the Buffalo Sabres’ November. Before their win on Friday night over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Sabres had endured six straight losses, all to Western Conference foes. The collection of losses took them far below .500 and even further from a playoff spot.
But Buffalo wasn’t willing to let the month end on a bad note thanks to the Western Conference. After dropping a painful 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators earlier this week, the Sabres went into Nashville this evening and skated off with an impressive 4-1 victory on their second game in as many nights.
Goaltender Chad Johnson once proved to be pivotal in the Sabres victory. After letting in a soft goal from Mike Fisher in the first period during a Predators power play, Johnson buckled down and guarded the net for the remainder of the night without flaw. He finished the evening with 28 saves on 29 Nashville shots.
“If you start changing things and trying to overplay things just because of the score, you start getting into trouble,” said Johnson following the game. “So, for me, no matter what the score is, I always try to play the same way, and try to cover pucks regardless, keep the pucks going if there’s an opportunity, and for me, do my thing regardless of the score.”
While Johnson kept Nashville off the board, Sam Reinhart played the biggest role in putting the Sabres on it by scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the season. His first tally came on the power play, while his second was at even strength, and was largely thanks to Nashville netminder Juuse Saros. After stopping Reinhart’s shot, Saros flailed in the crease and eventually kicked the puck into his own net.
Jamie McGinn added his fourth goal this year, also on the power play, while Ryan O’Reilly netted his eighth with an empty-netter with under three minutes left in the contest.
The Sabres’ success on the power play was equal parts a relief and a boon for the team. Buffalo entered the night having gone 0-14 on their previous man advantages—a dismal stat that was a huge culprit behind their 0-4-2 skid. The power play came in the second period after Predators’ left winger Viktor Arvidsson crosschecked Carlo Colaiacovo and was assessed a five minute major along with a ten minute game misconduct.
Buffalo—who were recently on the wrong end of a five minute major against the St. Louis Blues due to a cross check from Tyler Ennis—more than took advantage of the extended power play, scoring their opening two goals and never looking back.
“That was a huge turning point in the game,” said Johnson of the five minute power play. “We had some big kills, too, throughout the game, which was important for us […] We really just stuck with it as a group and battled. The ice was really bad, so there were bouncing pucks everywhere. It was a weird game. We’re just happy to get the two points.”
The Sabres have a couple of days off before they finish this brief road trip. They’ll stop off in Detroit on Tuesday for their first of five meetings with the Red Wings this season. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 face-off from the Joe Louis Arena.