It started out like most other Sabres and Devils games - boring, listless, neutral zone hockey - and had the First Niagara Center dozing off by the end of the first. And while it never quite turned into a barnburner, the Sabres managed to wake themselves up and take control of the last 30 minutes en route to a 2-1 win.
After a first period that had us all questioning our fandom, the Sabres leaders rallied their troops in the locker room. "Steve Ott's been a great leader for our group" said Ted Nolan. "Some other guys spoke up in the dressing room, especially after that first period." Whatever they said, it worked, as the Sabres took control of the game in the second period and never looked back.
Outshooting the Devils 12-7 (after just 4 shots in the first) Buffalo finally cashed in on the power play thanks to Matt Moulson, who has scored seven of his eight Sabres goals at home.
Things got a bit hairy in the third period when Tyler Myers, with the team already shorthanded, left his feet to nail Dainius Zubrus in the head, and the Devils would take advantage of the ensuing 5-on-3 tying the game. Myers was only assessed a two-minute Illegal Check To The Head penalty, but there's a significant chance he'll hear from Brenden Shanahan sometime soon. Ted Nolan didn't see the hit, but he didn't agree with Myers' timing, saying that he wants the defenseman to be aggressive "But at the right time. Penalty killing, you don't usually see too many big hits."
The Sabres would take the lead later in the third thanks to Matt D'Agostini, who scored his first goal as a Sabre in his 16th game wearing blue and gold - it was also his first goal of the season. When asked if it was frustrating to be stuck at zero for so long, D'Agostini dryly replied "Yeah. Well, now I'm at one, so..."
Ryan Miller was great in net once again for the Sabres, making 21 saves and only allowing a goal during New Jersey's 5-on-3 power play. In fact, all three goals in the game were scored on the power play (The More You Know). Johan Larsson also played well during his promotion to the second line. His crew of D'Agostini and Ott led the Sabres in Corsi tonight, and the kid won 8 of 18 faceoffs with his line playing the second-toughest minutes next to Konopka's.
Speaking of, Zenon Konopka's debut was less exciting than all the bunny talk over the past few days, though we was sent out for a ton of faceoffs relative to his ice time - he was 45% on 20 draws in just 9:53.
The injury-riddled Sabres will have a few days to recover before Carolina comes to town on Tuesday.
1. Who will win the all-important fourth line battle?
Despite the debut of Zenon Konopka, the Devils certainly won this race thanks to John Scott and Matt Ellis going 0-8 and 0-7 in the Corsi department tonight.
2. Which forwards will provide the offense for Buffalo?
Matt Moulson scored his 14th goal of the season, because he's been a scoring machine at the First Niagara Center, while Matt D'Agostini scored his first goal as a Sabre. In fact, he, Steve Ott, Brian Flynn, and Johan Larsson led the team tonight in Corsi.
3. Can this game please be more exciting than the first game this year between these two?
For much of the game, it really wasn't. While the two teams did combine for more shots than the last time they met, there was still a general sleepiness throughout the FNC, more so than usual. Things picked up a bit in the third period with Foligno's fight and D'Agostini's goal, and winning always makes things more exciting.
1. Matt D'Agostini - the game winner, his first as a Sabre
2. Matt Moulson - he scores a lot at home, and did so again today
3. Mike Weber - three hits and an unnecessary fight. I guess we're bored of putting Miller here.
Comment of the Game
Devils just got scored on by one of the scrubbiest power play lines I have ever seen.
D’Agostini and Ott should be immensely proud.
Zubrus should be ashamed.
Something tells me he hears that a lot.