The Sabres uphill climb against Pittsburgh started before the game began. Top scorer and team leader Ryan O’Reilly was ruled out with a lower body injury that is expected to be a foot injury which may keep him out for 3-4 weeks.
Buffalo came out with a nice first period out shooting the Penguins 15 to 6. I liked Justin Bailey’s energy throughout this game and in the first he had a good fore check that created a nice chance for the Sabres early on.
Yet Pittsburgh got the first goal when Crosby made a great pass to Letang at the point whose shot was deflected in by Patric Hornqvist. One problem that the Sabres suffered all game from was failing to cover the Pittsburgh defenseman up at the point. On the Hornqvist goal Marcus Foligno was way to low in his own zone which allowed Letang plenty of time to setup and shoot. Letang finished the game with three assists total and slipped through the Sabres zone all game.
The Sabres responded soon after with a powerplay goal. Zach Bogosian absolutely ripped a one timer from the point that Marc Andre Fleury never got a look at. Bogosian has been much better this last month and you have to wonder if he finally is free of any injury symptoms that he experienced earlier in this year. I liked his willingness to shoot tonight and play in his own end.
The second period was frustrating with Eichel getting a highly questionable penalty early on for cross-checking Carl Hagelin after coming to the defense of Robin Lehner who was hit in face by Hagelin’s stick. Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson scored just 17 seconds later and it seemed to shell shock the Sabres for the rest of the period. The majority of the second period Buffalo got trapped way in their own zone and Pittsburgh skated freely throughout. On Pittsburghs third goal Kessel was left alone on the left side for an easy tap in with the Sabres just watching.
The third started much the same with the Penguins fourth goal coming shorthanded when Matt Cullen got a nice breakaway goal past Lehner. The Sabres deserve credit for fighting with Bogosian’s shot being tipped in by Gionta 13 seconds later. Buffalo kept the pressure up and scored with 21 seconds left with Bogosian getting another slap shot from the point by Fleury. Unfortunately the Sabres rally failed and they ended up losing 4-3.
Today was Hockey Day In The USA and Eichel was obviously billed highly for this game. He played well creating some nice opportunities, but at points passed when he should have shot. Reinhart got moved to center with O’Reilly out and did ok. He had good chances on offense, but he had a really bad giveaway to Maata who ringed an open shot off the post.
Zach Bogosian: This is the player Buffalo expected when they traded for Bogosian. He was very solid and physical in his own end while creating good opportunities on offense. He won’t score 2 goals and an assist every game, but if he can stay at this level energy wise it will help big time in the standings.
Brian Gionta: He had some nice chances and was rewarded for hanging in front on Buffalo’s second goal that he tipped in. He stepped up as the captain today and was very noticeable for a young team like Buffalo.
Sam Reinhart: Today wasn’t a good game for him. He has had a great season on wing, but playing center against a good team like Pittsburgh he had some rookie moments that almost ended up in his own net.
Marcus Foligno: Some games he really makes a presence with his body out there while locking things down on defense and other games like today he is not noticeable and makes mistakes. He has played long enough that he needs to be more of a factor at this point.