In three previous games this year against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Buffalo Sabres were outcored 10-3 and lost all three contests. In their final matchup this season, the Sabres brought their A-game on national television and defeated the Lightning by a score of 4-1.
The Sabres were bringing the heat tonight, and the first period was one of the most entertaining periods of hockey we've seen all season. While there weren't a ton of shots, it was obvious that both teams had developed a strong dislike for each other, and that neither wanted to lose this last game of the season series. Both teams were skating hard, creating chances, and getting in each other's faces. But the star of the show was the man who's so often been the focus of attention on this year's Sabres squad.
Jack Eichel just can't seem to have a bad game, and tonight was no different. He was the darling of the national broadcast, and rightly so - the 19-year old wunderkid was all over the ice tonight, showcasing his speed, silky hands, creativity, and leadership while scoring a goal and adding his first NHL road assist. Eichel's goal came on a power play one-timer, and as many noted on Twitter and the game thread, his goal looked like something you often see from guys named Stamkos or Ovechkin. He finished tonight with a game-high seven shots, and showed the entire nation what we've been fortunate to watch so far this season.
Speaking of Steven Stamkos, while he was largely invisible for the first period, he came on strong in the second, scoring Tampa's first and only goal. The Lightning certainly looked much stronger in the second and especially in the third, but couldn't put anything past Chad Johnson, who had a wonderful combination of acrobatic saves, good rebound control, and Tampa missing out on a few really nice chances by shooting either wide or into the Buffalo crest.
Johnson earned the win (and his first assist on Ristolainen' empty netter) while Marcus Foligno added a fluky goal in the third period, his first of the season. The Sabres move to 7-8 with the win, and will play Florida on Thursday.
1. Can the Sabres defense continue to drive the offense?
Yes, but with a different player - Cody Franson was the man driving the blue and gold tonight, scoring his first goal as a Sabre while assisting on Jack Eichel's power play goal. The rest of the defense only combined for three shots, but they were very solid with their zone exits tonight, which helps the offense in its own way. Oh, and Ristolainen got the empty-netter.
2. Will the Sabres score more than one goal?
Yes again! The Sabres scored four goals, surpassing their total in all three previous games against the Lightning.
Comment of the Game
Don Cherry's suits
Have more personality than Mike Milbury.
Might make a better GM too.