After opening their preseason with a 3-2 win in Minnesota, the Buffalo Sabres couldn't keep their momentum going, as they gave up the first three goals en route to a 5-2 loss last night at the First Niagara Center.
While the game began with a scoreless tie after one, there was a stark difference from how that same outcome would have played out last season - the Sabres actually led in shots 12-6 after the first, and despite giving up three goals in the second, still led 25-19 after two. They would pour on 17 more in the third for a total of 42 shots in the game, which is hopefully a sign of far better possession numbers to come this season.
However, possession only influences probable outcomes, goals determine outcomes, and that's where the Sabres failed tonight, giving up five goals in the loss. Robin Lehner played the first two periods and gave up three goals in a four minute span in the second period, while Andrey Makarov gave up just one goal on six shots in the third; Ottawa would add an empty netter late to make the final score 5-2.
But enough about the bad, let's talk about the good. This was the first game where we had a chance to see what could be the Sabres top line - Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, and Tyler Ennis - play together, and if this game was any indication, they're going to be a ton of fun to watch. A great combination of speed, size, strength, hockey acumen, and scoring ability, this line scored a shorthanded and power play goal, both from Kane, and were making things happen all night.
Look at the goal above, which comes on the penalty kill. O'Reilly wins not one but two battles in the neutral zone, spins and lays a nice pass to a streaking Kane. Even though Kane bobbles the pass, he collects himself and fires a quick wrister into the net like it was the easiest thing in the world. Which, for a man of his talent, it might be. More of this, please.
Tonight was also the preseason debut of Sam Reinhart, who was credited with three shots but also a -3. Reinhart looked god in the faceoff dot through the first two periods, and was featured on the Buffalo power play tonight as well.
Overall, this is preseason hockey, and the score doesn't really matter. What does matter is that tonight gave us a glimpse at how this season could be different, with a potentially dominant top line and a team that is driven by good possession numbers for the first time in years.