Coming off the heels of a very disappointing three game road trip that resulted in three straight losses, the Sabres were back at home for this one. Buffalo had given up at least four goals in each of those games, but Linus Ullmark was having none of that tonight. The 22-year old rookie Ullmark made 22 saves, including a beauty on an Anze Kopitar breakaway in the 3-on-3 overtime, earning his 5th win of the season. Former Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth took the loss.
Per usual, Buffalo had an auspicious beginning, giving up an early goal, as Marian Gaborik scored just four minutes into the game. This is a bad habit that the Sabres need to stop. Mike Weber played the pylon role on the goal, showing why he has been the odd man out on the defense for most of the season.
Matt Moulson kept his streak of being terrible alive, contributing nothing but two weak shots on goal. It is becoming increasingly aggravating to know that he used to be a goal-scorer elsewhere, but is now a money-pit on an improving roster. I am also not pleased with Zemgus Girgensons this year. He seemed to perform much better when he was depended upon in the lineup; now that there are other skilled players on the roster, he seems to be having difficulties accepting that he is no longer "the man."
The surprise addition to the roster, Jamie McGinn, was able to knot the game up in the first period on the power play with a nifty backhand goal, his 6th of the season (2 more than Moulson).
For the remainder of the game, the Sabres held themselves well against the 4th best team in the NHL in the Kings. Buffalo looked to have taken the lead in the 2nd period with only a dozen seconds left, but a Brian Gionta skate that was barely over the line negated yet another challenged goal for Buffalo this season. Jack Eichel made a sweet pass on the play that set-up the non-goal by Jake McCabe. I have become a non-fan of the challenge at this point. The long stoppages kill what I love most about hockey - the speed and flow. This is not the NFL. Additionally, either a goal is a goal or it isn't. In other words, either review all goals, or review none. It will not be long before an important Stanley Cup game is decided by an offsides goal that was not reviewable because a team had already burned their challenge earlier.
Ryan O'Reilly ended the game with a highlight-reel goal in overtime, taking a great feed from McCabe and scoring on a sort of fade-away while falling to the ice. It was O'Reilly's 100th goal of his NHL career, a nice moment and milestone for him in his young Sabres career!
The Sabres are now 12-15-3 on the season, and take on the Detroit Red Wings next on Monday.