As a young team looking to grow from rebuilding to a serious playoff contender, the Buffalo Sabres need to learn how to close out games.
Last night was a perfect opportunity - entering the third period with a 2-1 lead on the road, the Sabres could have shut the Flames down to pick up two more points on their West Coast road trip.
Instead, they gave up two goals in the first 5 minutes of the period, missed out on some incredibly good chances of their own late in the game, and lost in overtime 4-3.
Three points in two games on a road trip isn’t all bad, but if this team is going to make the playoffs, these are the points that make the difference. Marcus Foligno shared his disappointment after the game, saying:
“It's definitely the feeling in this room is we expect to win every night. Tonight's a frustrating game. We have two leads and to blow them or just to give them up, it's tough. It's the way the game goes but it's the mentality of this dressing room that we always have to keep pushing."
Tonight wasn’t all bad, though. The Sabres opened the scoring with a nice tip in front from Zemgus Girgensons, who’s looking to make a bigger impact this year. Goals like that will certainly help.
Ryan O’Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen each earned their fifth point of the year on a power play goal, while the team’s penalty kill went six-for-six, remaining perfect on the season. And the aforementioned Foligno’s goal was a thing of beauty, a power crossover move that finished with a killer wrist shot that gave the Sabres their second lead of the third period, one which they would promptly cough up.
The Sabres had two glorious chances late in the third and one in overtime, but neither Foligno nor Sam Reinhart nor O’Reilly could convert, keeping the door open for Sean Monahan to win it in OT.
Buffalo could have done more to help themselves offensively, as they only put 21 shots on Chad Johnson all game. They did captialize on their chances through the first 45 minutes, but that well dried up towards the end. They also could have gotten more help from the officials, who allowed a goal that went in after the whistle had blown, and missed a fairly blatant cross-check on Sam Reinhart which led to the overtime winner.
The Sabres get one more chance to make this road trip right on Thursday night in Vancouver.
1. Will Robin Lehner be able to out-duel our old friend Chad Johnson?
Sadly, Lehner was the losing goalie on the night, stopping 30 shots on 34 attempts. No goalie could have stopped Ferland’s goal, a beautiful backhand right in the top corner from in close, but Lehner has to make the save on Tkachuk’s goal, a bad-angle shot that snuck in the short side.
2. Who will continue their scoring streak tonight?
Ryan O’Reilly continues to be a hero on offense, scoring his third goal and fifth point (both team highs) while Ristolainen notched his fifth assist of the year on ROR’s goal. Gionta and Okposo also continued their point streaks with one assist each.
3. Can the Sabres D give another strong, all-around performance?
McCabe and Bogosian had an issue on the first goal, with McCabe challenging the shooter while Bogo was left with two forwards to cover in the crease. The second Calgary goal was the result of a puck bouncing off a ref’s skate (thanks, stripes) and the third was Lehner’s fault. The OT goal possibly could have been stopped by a quicker stick from McCabe, but O’Reilly lost his man and that’s where the puck ended up.
Comment of the Game
Fat Lehner makes that save