The Buffalo Sabres move to 4-0-1 after a defensive fight with the Florida Panthers.
The Sabres were tested like they hadn’t been yet on Friday night. The Florida Panthers came into the game with a solid plan to thwart Ralph Krueger‘s offense. But much like they have all season, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to get another win over a quality opponent.
In the first period the Sabres came out initially looking rough. Florida was able to keep the puck in Buffalo’s zone. Florida also played a very physical brand of defense right out of the gate that seemed to give Buffalo problems. As the first period continued to carry on, Buffalo started to play better. By the end of the first, the Sabres kept the puck mostly in Florida territory.
Despite two power play opportunities in the first, Buffalo still couldn’t find the back of the net. The first period was closely contested with Buffalo out shooting Florida 13 shots to 11. One player who really stood out in the first period was Henri Jokiharju. Henri made several quality passes, and had the best shot attempt in the first.
In the second period we saw more of the same. The Sabres initially came out not looking their best and Florida kept the puck in Buffalo territory early. However, once again the Buffalo offense came alive and the script was flipped with Buffalo keeping the puck in Florida territory later in the second. Throughout this game Linus Ullmark looked excellent in goal. Ullmark was all over the net making difficult saves which for most of the night, was the difference in the game for Buffalo.
With about 45 seconds left in the second period I texted one of my good friends, “Holy crap man, this game is going to put me to sleep”. Then right on cue, with 35 seconds left Johan Larsson broke away and scored his first goal of the year off of a pretty pass from Zemgus Girgensons (his first assist of the year) to put the Sabres up 1-0. It was good to see the team who had struggled for most of this game, put up a goal to end the second.
To start the third period Buffalo brought the heat to Florida. Right out of the gate Marco Scandella scored his first goal of the year off of assists from Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. It was a pretty wrist shot for Scandella, and an important shot as it gave Buffalo the breathing room it hadn’t had all game.
Unfortunately, Buffalo quickly lost that breathing room as Evgenii Dadonov scored just minutes later to cut the lead down to 2-1. As the third went on, Florida brought a lot of pressure to Buffalo’s zone. But much like he had all night, Linus Ullmark fended off numerous shot attempts from Florida to keep Buffalo ahead. With about 2 minutes left Florida pulled their goalie and with just 10 seconds left in the game Mike Hoffman scored to send the game to overtime.
In overtime Florida did their best to keep the puck away from Buffalo. Outside of two solo breakaways from Jack Eichel, Buffalo didn’t touch the puck at all until the final minute. In the final minute of OT Buffalo got numerous good looks but just couldn’t convert and the game went to a shootout. Jack Eichel was able to put the first shot of the shootout in for Buffalo, and after two Florida misses, Casey Mittelstadt sent one home to give Buffalo the victory.
The biggest difference in this game was Linus Ullmark’s play in goal. Ullmark made impressive saves all night long, and when the Buffalo defense faltered he stepped up. Ullmark had an impressive 41 saves! Ullmark has looked very good in his first two appearances of 2019-20 and at some point if his play keeps up, the conversation will need to be had if he should be the starter.
Another big difference was the fourth line for Buffalo. I wrote a piece earlier today about how the fourth line needs to turn it’s shots into goals and tonight they did just that scoring both of Buffalo’s two goals.
Be sure to check back in to Sabre Noise tomorrow for a more in depth breakdown of the Sabres 3-2 victory over Florida. But until then, we’re 4-0-1 baby.