With most of their talented veterans being traded away over the past year or two, the Buffalo Sabres are down to the bottom of the "hero" pile, and tonight saw a man who has lived on the bottom this year get his moment at the top.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The Sabres took on the New Jersey devils last night, and after a quick start, things settled into a typical "Devils game" in the second period before a fun finish. Despite the opening period starting off with a flurry of activity, the score remained all zeroes through the first period and into the second, where old friend Dainius Zubrus opened things up.
Late in the second period, Nathan Lieuwen made what might be the save of the year on Michael Ryder, diving across the crease to stop the New Jersey winger's rebound chance. It was so good, it gets its own highlight (unfortunately Jeanneret no-sells it, but making a diving save with the paddle is always worthy of its own spotlight).
The Sabres would get on the board in the third period as Tyler Ennis put a sweet Ville Leino pass past Cory Schneider to reach the 20-goal plateau. Ennis would get his 21st just a few minutes later on the power play to give the Sabres the lead, which would only last a short while until Tuomo Ruutu tied the game up, which is where we would end up, because there's some type of NHL rule that says every Devils vs. Sabres game must go to a shootout.
The skills competition went to nine rounds thanks to some more Liewuen heroics, but in round nine we finally got our hero in the form of...Ville Leino. Leino went out to take his shot, and the crowd started to buzz, bigger and bigger and bigger all the way down the ice, until Leino found twine, Liewuen stopped one more Devils chance, and the Sabres emerged victorious.
1. Can Cody Hodgson build on his strong outing last game?
Hodgson had four shots and assisted on Ennis' goal. He also won 77% of his faceoffs and had the second best Corsi numbers on the team. Sounds pretty good to me.
2. What's up with Ville Leino's light-headedness?
It seems to have resolved itself, as Leino played on the third/fourth line tonight and played fairly well aside from his silly penalty. He was rewarded in the shootout with the shootout-winning goal and a huge ovation from the crowd.
3. Will Nolan's new full-time gig give the players some extra jump?
It didn't seem to, and nobody mentioned it afterwards. He did get a nice bit of recognition during the first whistle and another big cheer from the Buffalo faithful.
1. Tyler Ennis - 2 goals
2. Nathan Lieuwen - first NHL win and some huge saves
3. Ville Leino - 1 assist and the shootout winning goal
Comment of the Game
It couldn't be more perfect
Because he still doesn’t have a goal.