Afternoon games can sometimes be stodgy affairs, but the Buffalo Sabres kept the crowd interested long enough today to get their first win of the season. We knew this year's team would get into some high-scoring shootouts, and while the third period featured some defensive mishaps that were all-too-common last season, ultimately the Columbus Blue Jackets were not good enough to capitalize and the home side pulled out the 4-2 win.
As with all their games this season, the first period was a tentative, muddy affair. The Sabres did look good for their first few shifts, but then quickly settled into the neutral zone slog we've seen so often this season. The shots on goal were seven each and the Sabres had had two powerplay opportunities but spurned both with misplaced passes. This remained a theme on special teams play all through the game.
However, after finishing the first period scoreless, the Sabres came out like gangbusters in the second, pouring the pressure on Columbus which resulted in a power play that would see Rasmus Ristolainen open the scoring with a bomb from the point. That was the first time this season the Sabres led a game. Nicolas Deslauriers got into an even scrap with Jared Boll but the Sabres dominated the rest of the second period, doubling up Columbus' eight shots with sixteen of their own.
The Sabres started off the final frame hesitantly, and the Blue Jackets looked much more interested in the game than they had been previously. However, the visitors captain Nick Foligno took his third tripping penalty of the game and Matt Moulson spotted an open Ryan O'Reilly who coolly slotted home to open his Buffalo goalscoring account.
Just under fifteen minutes to play and Sabres had the dreaded two-goal lead, so there could only be one outcome. Zemgus Girgensons went off for a holding penalty, goaltender Chad Johnson was unable to corral an errant puck and Brandon Saad snuck in to pull one back. Suddenly the arena was hushed, players started missing passes again and there was an uneasy air of inevitability around this young Sabres squad.
Cometh the hour, and cometh the man.. goes the saying, and so came one Jack Eichel.
Eichel Alert: This guy can snipe #NHLFaceOff https://t.co/4wSI8xwN7w— NHL (@NHL) October 12, 2015
Eichel hunted down the puck, kept it in the offensive zone and then proceeded to abuse Sergei Bobrovsky in the net with that missile. Wow.
This being the Sabres though, they let the Blue Jackets back into the game one more time as Scott Hartnell scored on the powerplay to make the game 3-2 for Buffalo. However, the Blue Jackets capped off an undisciplined game with another penalty in the offensive zone, and Moulson clanged one in off the post to finish the game for good. This was the first time Buffalo had scored three powerplay goals in one game since the 2012-13 lockout season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.
So we finally had some exciting hockey as the offense lit it up, but the defense still has some improving to do especially with clearing the zone and general puck awareness. The Sabres go on the road now, playing against the Florida Panthers on Thursday, but until then feast your eyes again on the Eichel goal and the rest of the highlights from earlier today.