With all the success that the young, unproven Buffalo Sabres have been having in recent weeks, there was bound to be a letdown at some point. That point came about 1:48 into tonight's game when the San Jose Sharks opened the scoring, and the Sabres simply couldn't muster anything in response for the next 30 minutes.
The Sharks pounced on an early mistake, when Jake McCabe slipped on open ice, then slashed Tommy Wingels to break up the San Jose scoring chance. The Sharks would score on the ensuing power play thanks to Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, opening up a 1-0 lead less than two minutes in to the game. The rest of the period would feature the Sabres looking lost on their 5-on-3 power play, and generally looking like mud for the first twenty minutes.
What can we say about the second period? Well, from what I can remember, it was a period of hockey that had sticks and pucks, and grown men glided around the ice on fancy shoe-blades. There was a flurry of action in the final two minutes, but otherwise this was one of the most boring hockey periods the Sabres (and Sharks) have played since last season, featuring old favorites like Neutral Zone Clogs, Off-Target Passes, Zone Exit Failures, and the First Niagara Library. The Sabres had just three shots in the period until the final minutes, and San Jose wasn't much more entertaining.
All that changed midway through the third period when Ryan O'Reilly went Super Saiyan and unleashed an absolute bomb over the shoulder of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones for his fifth of the season. His blast was set up by Rasmus Ristolainen, who tied a career high four-game point streak (3+3) tonight with the assist.
After a flurry of Sabres action surrounding the O'Reilly goal the game got tense when, with five minutes left, Zemgus Girgensons was crushed in the neutral zone by Tommy Wingels. Carlo Colaiacovo jumped on Wingels and went to the box for his troubles. The hit looked dirty at first, but the replay shows Girgensons starting to go down before Wingels commits to the hit, so I don't anticipate Wingels getting a call from the league on this one.
The Sabres got banged around quite a bit tonight, with Tyler Ennis and Cody Franson also needing the trainer's attention. While all three finished the game, Girgensons was in noticeable pain in the locker room afterwards. The Sabres managed to survive a late flurry by the Sharks to force overtime, but after a few good chances of their own, got the Girgensons line stuck on the ice for an eternity, and eventually San Jose would make them pay thanks to Patrick Marleau.
This game was a massive letdown from the fun, exciting Sabres team we've seen recently, and Dan Bylsma agreed, noting the team didn't have enough North-South in their play tonight. The team simply had no jump in their skating and their breakout passes that connected didn't seem to lead to much in the way of sustained offense until the third period. A failed 5-on-3 in the first period didn't help their momentum at all, and they generally looked captial-m Meh for the first 38 minutes or so.
Still, the Sabres came away with a point against a Western Conference opponent, and will get another chance to do so on Tuesday as they host the Dallas Stars.
1. Which team will be over .500 at the end of the night?
With the win, the Sharks move to 9-8-0, and while the Sabres lost, they're technically still .500 with a record of 8-8-1.
2. Speaking of getting over .500, will the Sabres have anyone with a positive +/- once the game ends?
Yes - Sam Reinhart moves to +2 thanks to O'Reilly, while Matt Moulson earned the O'Reilly bump to +1. Feel the power of positivity!
Comment of the Game
I’d have Ryan O’Reilly’s babies and after that shot I think I might be.
At least buy the man a drink first.