In the final 40 minutes, the Buffalo Sabres dueled the Nashville Predators to a hard-fought 2-1 loss. Having outshot the Preds 29-18, the undermanned Sabres came close to knocking off a team on the edge of the playoffs. It was a solid effort from a team eliminated from contention weeks ago, and it was good to see that the players haven't packed it in yet.
The only problem? The Sabres completely no-showed in the first period and spotted Nashville four goals before the end of the opening frame. The Sabres looked somehow worse than the 30th place team in what was one of the most pathetic periods of hockey that Sabres fans have been forced to sit through in a long while.
Starting goaltender Matt Hackett was fed to the wolves - pelted with fifteen shots to Buffalo's four - and the Sabres defense repeatedly left him out to dry on rebound attempts. Jamie McBain, Chad Ruhwedel, and Henrik Tallinder all finished -2, and Hackett was pulled to start the second period in favor of Nathan Lieuwen, who made 17 of 19 saves the rest of the way. Still, the damage had been done, and the Sabres ended their road trip with a complete dud of an effort.
The lone bright spot was the team's young players. Rasmus Ristolainen scored Buffalo's only goal, assisted by Brian Flynn and Johan Larsson, and Nicolas Deslauriers at least attempted a fight to jump-start his team mid-way through the first period. Those four players finished a combined -2 while the rest of the Sabres roster combined for a -19. The line of Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, and Drew Stafford was particularly egregious, and Foligno was benched in favor of John Scott later in the game, the ultimate insult.
Buffalo's next game is home against the Tampa Bay Lightning this Saturday, and I seriously wonder if they'll win another game this season. Last night's effort had all the trappings of a team thinking way more about their tee times than their opponent. Will things get better? Can Ted Nolan turn things around with nine games to go? We better hope so, or these last three weeks will be painful indeed.
1. How will Johan Larsson look in the NHL after tearing it up in the AHL for a few months?
Larsson had two shots and assisted on the Sabres only goal, but he was also the forward with the worst possession numbers on the team.
2. Can Matt Hackett take advantage of his chance to audition for the starting role?
No, but he played the part of the sacrificial lamb very well tonight.
3. Tanking effectiveness aside, can the Sabres avoid any more injuries, please?
Nope - Ville Leino left the game in the first period with "light-headedness" and played a grand total of 58 seconds. We'll keep an eye on how serious that injury is, because it will affect the team's ability to buy Leino out.
Comment of the Game
Oh thank god its over.
I couldn't agree more.