The Buffalo Sabres were without their leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, in today’s matchup against the New Jersey Devils but his absence didn’t slow down this Sabres team as they rolled over the Devils with a 4-3 shootout victory at First Niagara Center. Today’s contest extended the Sabres win streak to three games as they are desperately trying to get their season back on track.
The first period was noticeably physical between these two sides. Steve Ott and David Clarkson dropped the gloves less than a minute in and got the crowd into it early. Patrick Kaleta pissed off Ilya Kovalchuk throughout the first period and earned a powerplay for his team on a high-sticking penalty by the frustrated Kovalchuk.
The Buffalo Sabres had multiple scoring chances throughout the first period but just could not finish which has been the story for this team all season.
New Jersey poured on the offense, outshooting Buffalo 13-6 in the first, but they failed to get anything past Ryan Miller. Today’s game marked Miller’s 12th start in a row for Buffalo.
The battery of shots from New Jersey continued as the Sabres struggled to clear their own zone for much of the second period.
The momentum was leaning towards New Jersey but it would be Buffalo to get on the board first with a shorthanded goal on a beautiful feed from Cody Hodgson behind the net finding Jason Pominville wide-open in the slot.
The lead would be short lived as the Devils responded just over 2 minutes later on a shot from Steve Bernier that trickled past Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1-1.
Buffalo continued generating scoring chances but still experienced trouble finding the back of the net through much of this game.
The Sabres started off the third period on the powerplay, but quickly gave up the momentum allowing New Jersey to score shorthanded taking the 2-1 lead. A defensive breakdown on the Sabres man-up advantage enabled Adam Henrique to capitalize on a breakaway.
The Sabres’ captain Jason Pominville answered less than two minutes later tying up the game on another great pass from Cody Hodgson.
The Sabres let New Jersey right back into the game allowing Andrei Loktionov to tie the game up for New Jersey.
The game ended up tied at 3-3 and neither team could put it away in overtime as it continued to a shootout.
The shootout was all Buffalo as Miller’s experience proved to be too much for New Jersey, stopping both Ilya Kovalchuk and Adam Henrique. Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis would both score for Buffalo, propelling the Sabres to a 4-3 victory at home.
AJ’s Thoughts on the game:
-How about those refs today? They were absolutely horrible, missing calls left and right, mostly against the Sabres
-At the point, the Sabres should just give Jhonas Enroth’s paycheck to Ryan Miller as his usefulness has clearly been used up in Buffalo.
-I liked seeing Ron Rolston mixing up the lines today and switching things up on the ice for Buffalo. He really didn’t have a choice with Thomas Vanek out, but I think that first line is missing a hard hitting two-way forward to give it more balance. Marcus Foligno and Steve Ott both filled in on the first line for Vanek today.
-This team needs to learn to take the momentum early and keep riding it through games. They got a huge shorthanded goal from Pominville, but let New Jersey right back into the game not even 3 minutes later. Same with the go-ahead goal in the third; they let the Devils come back and tie it up making it a lot harder to earn these wins.
-One thing I will say was that the team responded very well today when they got down, and kept playing hard throughout the game. This was the loudest I’ve heard the crowd at First Niagara Center all season.
-I Loved seeing Grigorenko work down low and earn that assist on Hecht’s goal today. He’s making smarter decisions with the puck and it’s only a matter of time before he really starts to break out on offense for this team.
-Ehrhoff… tisk tisk. Single handedly spoiled Buffalo’s first two powerplays by taking penalties of his own. He’s our best defenseman on this team right now and we need him to play like it every game.
-Kaleta is beast. He was in Kovalchuk’s head all game. Top 10 most hated in the NHL for sure, enough said there
-It’s great when Pominville steps up in games like this. When he’s playing well and getting it done on the ice, the rest of the team seems to rally around him and want to win that much more.
-Sabres outhit the Devils 31-20
-0/6 on the powerplay today. The Sabres need to turn this around if they want to continue having success this season.
-Buffalo had less giveaways than their opponent today which is a rare stat for this team
-During his press conference, Ron Rolston hinted at the fact the Miller would probably get the start tomorrow in New York
The Sabres take on the New York Rangers tomorrow at Madison Square Garden as they look to extend their win streak to four games.