The Buffalo Sabres played a tremendous final three minutes of the hockey game. Unfortunately for them, the NHL put the rules at 60.
All jokes aside, Buffalo lost to a team that was better than them while putting up a heck of a fight in a game they probably shouldn’t have been in. It was a lackluster performance overall, but as always there are keys to take from it.
I’m not sure what word to use to describe Jack Eichel, but just make sure it’s a synonym for on the path to stardom. He made some ridiculous plays look so simple tonight. In the 1st period he maneuvered his way down left wing with some fancy stick work and slid a brilliant pass to Zemgus Girgensons in front of the net.
In the final minutes of the game he ripped shots when he needed to, went all out to keep the puck in the offensive zone, won battles beneath the goal and set his teammates up with perfect passes. Not that anyone needs to be told, but the kid continues to be a stud night in and night out. With a little more maturation you’re looking at one of the best players in hockey.
Throughout the first two periods Buffalo had a hard time maintaining the puck and it led to some extended length offensive zone possessions for Detroit. There were multiple 60+ second possessions for the Wings with even strength numbers on the ice. And then throw in five power plays? The Buffalo defense played a solid game.
Detroit opened the scoring on their third man advantage of the 1st period. The Sabres dug themselves a hole and you can’t give a team like Detroit that many opportunities. It will eventually come back to haunt you, and tonight it was in the form of a Dylan Larkin put-back.
Riley Sheahan made it 2-0 when he went coast to coast with the puck and fired a bullet past Chad Johnson. Not a great goal to give up, but it was the realization of mounting pressure all night long. Detroit was firing everything at Johnson. None of the trio of Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson or Rasmus Ristolainen forced Sheahan off the puck and he made them pay.
The penalty kill itself was exceptional tonight, as it has seemed to be much better since the return of Ryan O’Reilly. He and David Legwand continue to do a tremendous job, and the rotation of defenders were no exception as well. Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian and Ristolainen in particular are getting thrown out there continuously and are performing at a high level. Can’t blame the Larkin goal on the D or on Johnson. When you give Detroit that many chances they will find a way to score.
Buffalo did not have much of an offensive attack until the bitter end, mustering up a pitiful nine shots in the first 40 minutes of action. That will not win games in the National Hockey League, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing.
When in desperation mode after surrendering the first three goals of the night, the Sabres looked somewhat competent for the first time all night. Zemgus Girgensons scored for the first time in 24 games. A good wrister, but a shot Jimmy Howard probably wants back.
Then they pulled to within one 61 seconds later on an absolute blast off from Sam Reinhart. The second tally was the result of great patience with the puck. Buffalo had worked the puck in the zone and rookie Casey Nelson held it at the point. Instead of firing his own shot on net he threw a quick pass to Reinhart in the corner who buried it. The puck was by Howard before he even moved.
It was a great effort from Buffalo in the final 1:49 but they couldn’t muster one more by Howard. They had their share of quality chances and great possession, but it wasn’t in the cards for tonight.
Big question of the night: did Dan Bylsma pull Chad Johnson too early? It happened with 3:15 left in the game and at a time when Buffalo was starting to gather some momentum. Detroit hit the empty net quickly to make it 3-0 and then the Sabres started the comeback. Would it have been different had they waiting to pull CJ a little longer?
Your Hudson Fasching update for the night: he looked like a guy who was playing in his 2nd NHL game. A few ill-advised turnovers and not as much confidence from the youngster. Only Matt Moulson took fewer shifts than Fasching tonight. No need to worry, this is a guy that will just get better with time.
It’s a quick turnaround for Buffalo as they travel to take on the Penguins tomorrow night at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.