In a game that was reminiscent of the Sabres vs. Senators games from a decade ago, the Sabres came away with a hard-fought 3-1 victory. From the opening puck drop, the Sabres outplayed their opponent for a solid 60 minutes in all facets of the game. In an extremely scrappy affair, the Sabres did not relent despite consistent physical play from Ottawa.
One of the big story lines entering this game was Sam Reinhart and his pursuit of 20 goals on the season. 2:07 into the first period, Sam was able to accomplish this impressive milestone with a tap in rebound off of a point shot by Rasmus Ristolainen.
Reinhart joins Jack Eichel as the second rookie on the team to reach 20 goals. This is the first time the Sabres have had two 20-goal-scoring rookies in the same season since the 1974-75′ season. The 1-0 lead however would be short lived as Alex Chiasson would score a mere 3:27 later to tie the contest at one a piece.
The Sabres would then come right back with a goal courtesy of Nic Deslauriers on a fantastic pass from Ryan O’Reilly for the go-ahead goal. This was Deslauriers’ sixth goal of the season. The period would end at 2-1 with the Sabres out-shooting the Senators, 15-12.
A noticeably physical affair soon escalated after Rasmus Ristolainen dropped the gloves with Alex Chiasson just over seven minutes into the second period. Chiasson relentlessly cross checked Ristolainen behind the play around the Sabres net.
Once Goaltender Chad Johson secured the puck, Ristolainen wasted no time in dropping the gloves with Chaisson. This would spark a period that included 38 minutes of total penalties including ten minute game misconducts for Marcus Foligno and a noticeably frustrated Chris Neil.
Zach Bogosian would score the lone goal in the period tapping in a tic-tac-toe set up from Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. The goal was Bogosian’s sixth of the season who registered his 11th point in his past 13 games.
The story of the third period was the quietly stellar play of Chad Johnson between the pipes. Johnson came into this game in relief of Robin Lehner who continues to struggle with an ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for a majority of the season.
The goaltender dubbed “Ocho Cinco” by fans (a reference to former NFL Wide Receiver Chad Johnson who shared this nickname), continued his stalwart play in net, shutting out Ottawa on their four power play opportunities of the night. Johnson would finish the night with 32 saves on 33 shots and a .969 save percentage.
Tensions remained high throughout the third period with a dangerous attempted hit to the head on Sam Reinhart from Senators Defenseman Dion Phaneuf in open ice. Sabres d-man and emotional leader Zach Bogosian, wasted no time in dropping the gloves with Phaneuf, which served as a fair warning to anyone else thinking of taking a run at a Buffalo Sabre.
3-1 would remain the final score after a late penalty against the Senators, along with an outstanding goal line save from Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, would all but squander any attempt at a late game comeback.
Ruhwedel played his first NHL action since last season’s finale (4/11/15) against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In limited action (15:30 of total ice time), Ruhwedel played well, especially down the stretch to help preserve the Sabres two goal lead. Overall this was an inspiring game in terms of what the future holds in Buffalo. Young star forwards Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel were extremely impressive with a goal and two assists between them.
Ryan O’Reilly registered his 34th assist of the season, and players like Zach Bogosian and Marcus Foligno showed that when duty calls, they will not hesitate to defend their teammates. Tonight we saw a team that is beginning to play together, and more importantly secure a full 60 minute win together.