It was an exciting weekend at the KeyBank Center as the Buffalo Sabres split a pair of one-goal games against two teams that came to town hotter than a firecracker.
It started Friday night when the best player on the planet came to Buffalo. Connor McDavid and the 10-2 Edmonton Oilers had visions of an easy win against a Sabres team that was trying to break a five-game losing streak. But it was Dylan Cozens who stole the show, scoring twice and leading the Sabres to a thrilling 3-2 win.
Cozens and his linemates were matched up against McDavid all night long. McDavid was even joined on his line by NHL goal-scoring leader Leon Draisaitl for most of the second half of the game but the Cozens line and goalie Dustin Tokarski held them off the scoresheet at even strength. Draisaitl did score twice but both were on the powerplay, including one that was the result of an absolutely atrocious call by the official.
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Cozens potted two goals, both in the second period. The first one was a beautiful shot after Drake Caggiula created a neutral zone turnover and fed him a great pass to create the opportunity. The second goal was a rebound chance after Vinnie Hinostroza had a breakaway. Cozens beat McDavid to the slot and banged home an easy one to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead in the last minute of the period.
From there, the Sabres faced the chore of holding a one-goal lead against some of the most talented goal scorers in the league. The third period started well, and the Sabres were staying aggressive. But the Oilers started to find their stride in the second half of the period, putting 14 shots on goal. But Tokarski made a series of excellent saves toward the end of the game and the Sabres were able to close the sale.
This was an absolutely great win for the Sabres. They held a third-period lead, which has been a problem recently. They scored more than one goal for Dustin Tokarski, which has also been a problem recently. And most importantly, they stopped the bleeding and ended a five-game losing streak.
The next night against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a heartbreaker. Buffalo lost a thriller in regulation by a final score of 5-4 thanks to a goal on a shot from just inside the blue line with just 11 seconds to go. It was a brutal finish to an otherwise great hockey game.
The Leafs scored first on a terrible goal, but the Sabres battled the Leafs and showed great resilience. Twice the Sabres fell behind by two goals and both times they were able to respond. They eventually tied things up with a pair of goals within a minute of one another in the third period. For a while, it looked like they would get the game to overtime but with 11 seconds to go the Leafs got the game-winner.
Despite the brutal finish, it was fun to see Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner playing well together. Jeff Skinner had a three-point night including a pair of goals and Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin also got on the board.
The Sabres were 11 seconds away from a huge weekend, but they played hard in both games against two teams that were as hot as can be, and most importantly, they got a win to end their first losing streak of the season.
It’s on to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.