Chad Johnson played his tail off, but the Sabres couldn’t get enough going offensively to make that count in the standings as they fell to the Blackhawks, 3-1.
Johnson made 42 saves, many of the spectacular fashion, but it wasn’t enough in the Windy City. One of the big ones that stuck out was on Artem Anisimov’s breakaway in the 1st period. Anisimov backhanded the bouncing puck which Johnson gloved no problem.
Patrick Kane had a couple great opportunities that Johnson pushed away without a problem. The first came around the halfway mark of the 1st period when Kane didn’t get all of the puck, but Johnson made a great play moving side to side for the stop. The other with 10:30 in the 3rd where Kane had a great backhanded attempt that Johnson ate up with the body. This was the best performance from Johnson in quite some time.
The first goal that the netminder gave up was a beautiful wrister from Niklas Hjalmarsson. Erik Gustafsson and Jonathan Toews had pretty touch passes that set up the D-man alone in front of the net. He finished with a money shot that Johnson had a chance at, but couldn’t be too upset with giving up.
The second goal was a little softer, but blame has to placed on Rasmus Ristolainen as well. He didn’t move Phillip Danault off the puck, instead letting him skate up left wing where he fired one over Johnson’s right shoulder for his 1st career NHL goal. All in all, a fantastic performance from Johnson where he clearly gave the Sabres a chance to win, a tough task when playing in Chicago.
Ryan O’Reilly was once again the best Sabres forward on the ice all game. Where would this team be without this guy? He potted his 17th goal of the season off a great feed from Jamie McGinn behind the net for Buffalo’s lone score. He won 17 faceoffs against losing only nine, a remarkable number that helped the Sabs in the time of possession battle. ROR is every bit deserving of the All-Star nod that he received.
There wasn’t much help for O’Reilly against Chicago. Jack Eichel seemed to blend in with the pack, not making any of the dazzling plays that we’ve become accustomed to. His point streak ended at four games, but he is still playing quite impressively over the last dozen or so games.
Evander Kane had a couple of great chances that he couldn’t put away. O’Reilly slid a nifty pass through the defense that led Kane on a breakaway with four minutes left in 1st. He rang it off the left goal post, on what was probably Buffalo’s best scoring chance of the night sans the goal. His other came with seven and a half minutes in the 2nd. Johan Larsson had the screen set in front of the net, but Corey Crawford still got a glove on Kane’s deft wrist shot.
When you’re in Chicago, you have to do everything right to beat such a quality team. The opportunities presented themselves for Buffalo, coupled with the impressive night from Johnson, but they couldn’t quite seem to put everything together in taking the L for the 6th consecutive game. They head up to the north country in their next attempt to stop the bleeding, Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg.