Hockey Day in America got off to a great start for the Buffalo Sabres. But as the day went on, the Penguins showed why they've been able to crawl back into a playoff spot while the Sabres still have plenty of growing to do, as Pittsburgh took advantage of their chances and shut Buffalo down to earn a 4-3 win.
The Sabres got off to a flying start to this game, dominating the first period with a 15-6 shot advantage. Unfortunately, though they controlled play for almost the entire period, they let in the opening goal thanks to a nice tip past Robin Lehner from Patrick Hornqvist. Buffalo would quickly respond on a power play goal from Zach Bogosian, who got a perfect pass from Mark Pysyk and a perfect screen from Johan Larsson.
Despite how good the Sabres looked in the first, things would quickly fall apart over the next 40 minutes. Pittsburgh would score the next three goals, including a shorthanded tally in the third, while the Sabres couldn't regain any of the momentum they had in the first period.
The Sabres would get one goal back from Brian Gionta, and would close the gap to one thanks to a last-minute goal from Bogosian, but would ultimately fall 4-3.
With Ryan O'Reilly out and with it being Hockey Day in America, much of the focus of the broadcast was on Jack Eichel, but despite making some flashy moves he did not register a shot on goal today. Instead, the Sabres offense was driven by two other Americans - Zach Bogosian and Brian Gionta.
Bogosian had two goals and an assist for his first two-goal game since 2009, while Gionta had one of each in the losing effort. Robin Lehner made 27 saves on 31 Pittsburgh shots, but his failure to stop Matt Cullen's shorthanded goal helped to seal the 4-3 loss. He wasn't helped by his defense tonight, who frequently left Pittsburgh shooters alone in front of the net, and got burned repeatedly for it.
With their loss today, the Sabres four game points streak comes to an end. The team will have a few days to dwell on the loss before starting a West Coast road trip on Wednesday.
1. What will the Sabres do without Ryan O'Reilly?
Both Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel centered the top line at times tonight, and Eichel led the Sabres forwards in ice time tonight with a bit over 21 minutes. But the Sabres greatly missed O'Reilly's defensive responsibility and faceoff ability over the final 40 minutes. Let's hope his injury recovery is a short one.
Comment of the Game
It's Hockey Day in America, brought to you by NBC! And we didn't even have Pierre...