The Sabres played their best game of the season, and while they still gave up a ton of shot attempts, they looked like the better team through the first 40 minutes. Marcus Foligno opened the scoring in the first period with a nice toe-drag snap shot past Cam Ward, and after 20 minutes the Sabres found themselves with a 1-0 lead and a 13-7 lead in shots. The second period saw early scoring from both teams courtesy of Riley Nash and Torrey Mitchell, and after 40 minutes, the Sabres held a rare 2-1 lead.
To no one's surprise, however, Buffalo couldn't hold the lead thanks to a panicked third period that saw the Hurricanes come back from a two-goal deficit in the final minutes. A second goal from Marcus Foligno wasn't enough to stave off tallies from Chris Terry and Zach Boychuk, and the game would eventually make its way to the shootout, where both teams would show incredible offensive ineptitude (seriously, we saw pucks roll off sticks, lazy snap shots, and Victor Rask even FORGOT THE PUCK) until Zemgus Girgensons won the game in Round 8 to give the Sabres their first victory of the season.
Tonight was a step in the right direction for the Sabres, as the effort was much better across the board. However, Carolina might be even worse than Buffalo, and were riddles with injuries to many key players, including Eric Staal, Andrej Sekera, and Jeff Skinner. Still, a win is a win, and despite the third period mini-meltdown, this game has to feel good for Ted Nolan and the boys in the locker room. How they respond on Friday against a much improved Florida team, on the other hand, will reveal more about the character and makeup of this year's squad.
Bask in the sunny glow of victory and enjoy the next few days, Sabres fans.
1. How will the defensive pairs look tonight?
The top pair remained the same (and had another strong game) but Mike Weber was with the newcomer Tyson Strachan, while Rasmus Ristolainen was paired with Andre Benoit. Andrej Meszaros was mercifully given the night off.
Benoit and Ristolainen were by far the team's worst possession pair, with approximately a -15 Corsi rating while they were on the ice. The much-maligned Mike Weber recorded six hits and three blocked shots, increasing his COMPETE rating by +4.5. Tyson Strachan looked competent (an improvement!) and recorded the only point among blueliners.
2. Will anyone other than Tyler Ennis or Zemgus Girgensons score?
Yes! Marcus Foligno scored twice, and Torrey Mitchell netted his first of the year to give the Sabres a season-high three goals. It should also be noted that Brian Gionta registered five shots and an assist, but Girgensons made his presence known with the shootout winner in Round 8.
3. Who will take the early lead in the battle for the basement?
The Hurricanes are currently in 15th place in the East, but the Sabres let the Canes steal a point tonight by letting them tie the game up late in the third period.
Comment of the Game
An appropriate metaphor for the season if I ever heard one.