The Buffalo Sabres went in to last night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning coming off of a string of blowouts. Having lost their last three games by a combined score of 15-4, facing the top team in the Eastern Conference, and having played the night before, the safe bet was to expect another blowout loss.
While the shot and faceoff stats from last night suggest one team dominating the other, the Sabres rode a red-hot Michal Neuvirth as long as they could, and gave Tampa Bay a scare in a 2-1 loss.
Neuvirth was the story of the game for Buffalo, making 45 saves, including this amazing effort in the second period, to hold the league's top scoring team to just two goals. Somehow, Neuvirth kept Tampa off the score sheet in the second period despite the Sabres being outshot 27-5. No, that's not a typo, thost aren't the numbers for the entire game, the Sabres were actually outshot in a single period 27-5. Tampa Bay was just three shots away from tying the Sabres all-time record for most shots against in a single period. After the game, Steven Stamkos called Neuvirth "the best player on the ice."
However, eventually the Lightning offense would break through thanks to the aforementioned Stamkos (he was a #1 pick, ya know) who scored with just over five minutes left in the third to send the Sabres home with their seventh loss in a row.
Buffalo now gets a few days off to lick their wounds, and their next game is Tuesday versus the Red Wings, where Dominik Hasek's number will be retired.
1. Will this game be a bloodbath, or will the Sabres manage to keep it close, or even - gasp - win?
They did keep it close - with just six minutes left in the third the game was still tied, despite Tamp outshooting the Sabres 47-21. I was actually fully expecting this game to be another "Sabres Special" where they get outshot a million-to-ten and somehow still win the game in a shootout, but alas, it was not to be.
2. Will Ted Nolan shuffle his top line around to try and spark some scoring? Will it work?
The lines were shuffled, but it didn't result in much of anything. In fact, the only goal was scored by the immortal Cody McCormick...on the penalty kill. Yes, Cody McCormick scored shorthanded goal. It was a weird game.
3. How will Phil Varone follow up his two-goal effort last night?
Varone managed just one shot in barely thirteen minutes of ice time. I guess he hasn't earned his ice time yet, the author wrote sarcastically.
Comment of the Game
We got them to put the game on when I was at trivia tonight.
Ted Nolan's favorite trivia team. Also this story was more interesting than just about anything the Sabres did in last night's game.