Buffalo Sabres overcome shorthanded coaching staff in big win over Columbus

Earlier today, the Buffalo Sabres ruled out head coach Don Granato with an illness, forcing Seth Appert to step in and show us what he’s got.

Dec 30, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres right wing Jack Quinn (22) skates with the
Dec 30, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres right wing Jack Quinn (22) skates with the / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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It’s not every day you lose your coach to an illness and make a contingency plan for an upcoming game, but that’s what the Buffalo Sabres were forced to do tonight vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. And while the Sabres looked like the better team throughout most of the contest, they still weren’t winning in the most important statistic of them all - the score. 

Damon Severson scored for Columbus in the final minute of the first period, but Jack Quinn had an answer for that just 40 seconds into the second. It was Quinn’s third goal in just his fifth game back, and he looks like he’s taken a definite step forward progression-wise. 

But of course, rookie sensation Adam Fantilli pulled Columbus ahead 2-1 later in the stanza, before Casey Mittelstadt scored just over halfway through the final frame, giving the shorthanded Sabres momentum in this one. It was enough to force overtime, where Jeff Skinner scored the game-winner. 

Buffalo Sabres win despite Don Granato’s absence vs. Columbus

Of course, the Sabres win wasn’t a pretty one, as they couldn’t seem to find the back of the net against goaltender Daniil Tarasov, who saved 38 of 41 shots on goal at the time of this writing. However, Buffalo also got several shots past him, they just kept bouncing off the post, so it wasn’t like Tarasov was enjoying as good of an evening as his final stat line indicated. 

But still, the Buffalo Sabres could have folded with Seth Appert thrust into the position of head coach for the evening. Although Appert knows these players well, it was a rather impromptu situation, and that could have thrown the Blue and Gold off their game. But for tonight, it didn’t matter, and they are finally skating away with two points. 

Now, the seemingly perpetual burning question arises again: Can they win two in a row to close out 2023? We will find out tomorrow night when they square off against the Ottawa Senators. 

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(Statistics provided by NHL.com)