To use a cliche, tonight's game was both the best of times, and the worst of times. The Buffalo Sabres and their fans were flying high after a first period that saw them on top of the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0, and then everything came crashing down in a second period where Buffalo allowed four unanswered goals - two shorthanded.
The Sabres managed to tie the game in the third, but ultimately lost to the Pens 5-4, getting shut out in the shootout.
The first period by the Sabres was one of the best of the season, at least as far as the scoreboard is concerned. Despite being outshot 18-9 by the Penguins, the Sabres capitalized on their big chances, especially on special teams, to go into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead on the road.
Two big scoring slumps ended tonight, and it began with Matt Moulson, who broke an 18-game goalless drought by opening the scoring with his sixth of the year on the power play. Not to be outdone, Ryan O'Reilly would break his own 24-game scoring slump with a shorthanded goal that saw him outwork most of the Penguins team to give the Sabres two goal lead. Jake McCabe would score a beautiful goal (off of a beautiful O'Reilly pass) while the teams played 4-on-4 to put Buffalo up 3-0.
It was an amazing start for a team that had gone down 2-0 in each of its last two games...but it was not to last. Ben Lovejoy got the Penguins on the board just 90 seconds in to the second period, and the Penguins would go on to score three more goals in the second - from Connor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Nick Bonino - to take a 4-3 lead after two.
The crown jewel of suckitude for the Sabres came on a late penalty in the second, where they allowed not one, but TWO shorthanded goals on the same penalty to Pittsburgh. The four Pens goals in the second came on a combination of bad defensive coverage, goals that could have been stopped by the goalie, and a horrible play behind the net by Chad Johnson that led to the easiest goal of Nick Bonino's life. It was bad, folks.
The Sabres would bounce back in the third, putting 12 shots on net and getting the tying goal from Zach Bogosian, his seventh of the season. But the would ultimately fall in the shootout (after a missed Eichel breakaway in overtime) to lose their millionth straight to the Penguins. Getting outshot 46-30 feels a lot like last year, and continuing to lose to Pittsburgh feels a lot like every year.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Sabres, however. We mentioned Moulson and O'Reilly breaking big scoring slumps, but Casey Nelson earned two assists tonight, giving him four assists in his first three games. Johan Larsson also had two assists, while Zach Bogosian earned two points as well.
The Sabres next game is on Thursday night, when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
1. Will Evander Kane play tonight?
Nope, Kane sat and Ryan O'Reilly played on Jack Eichel's wing. The superline combined for seven shots but just two points, both from O'Reilly. Cal O'Reilly made his way back in to the lineup
2. Who will be in net tonight?
Tonight was Chad Johnson's sixth consecutive start, and it showed in a few Penguins goals that snuck right under the arm and a horrible decision on the second Pittsburgh shorty. Give the guy a rest.
Comment of the Game
This team is so much better than last year.
Just looking at the standings going into this game.
76 games, 72 points, 181 GF, 205 GA for a -24 goal differential
82 games, 54 points, 161 GF, 274 GA for a -113 goal differential.
Just those numbers alone are a huge improvement.
Despite the loss, it's important to keep things in persepctive.