With Evander Kane in the box for high sticking, Minnesota’s Jason Zucker buried a one-timer with just 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation to hand the Sabres a 2-1 loss in their 2016-17 preseason opener.
The game was played at Penn State in Pegula Ice Arena, funded by Sabres’ billionaire owner Terry Pegula. Appreciative fans and rowdy students led chants of “Thank you, Terry!” preceding the opening faceoff. There was also a standing ovation following a tribute video late in the first period. Both Kim and Terry Pegula were in attendance.
Zemgus Girgensons got the Sabres on the scoreboard first, potting a rebound past Wild goaltender Alex Stalock. Marcus Foligno started the play, taking a shot from down low. Justin Bailey scooped up the rebound and made a smart pass through the zone to Casey Nelson at the point who fired a shot on net. It was the only goal of the period, one in which the Sabres outshot the Wild, 17-11.
Surprisingly, the Wild took the first eight shots of the game. Sabres newcomer goaltender Anders Nilsson was a wall, stopping them all, en route to making 26 saves on 27 shots. Kurtis Gabriel was the only player to get one past Nilsson, knotting the game at 1 with a quick rebound. There was a delayed penalty and the Sabres were caught in their end on a long shift.
Linus Ullmark relieved Nilsson, playing the final period. He faced only four shots.
The Sabres had several chances to win this one, but they couldn’t take advantage of them. Both Evander Kane and William Carrier were denied on breakaways.
“I thought we had some good opportunities. Just not enough finish. Zemgus stood out, that’s how we need him to play.” – Dan Bylsma
The teams took different approaches with their rosters. The Sabres used several NHL veterans, while the Wild dressed mostly prospects.
Buffalo’s lines were:
Defensive pairs were:
Josh Gorges and Casey Nelson
Brendan Guhle and Justin Falk
Brady Austin and Erik Burgdoerfer
The Sabres are back in action Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators at KeyBank Center. MSG will air the game with puck drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
While Jack Eichel’s teammate at Boston University, Matt O’Connor, is scheduled to start in goal for the Senators, Eichel will likely not play.