I'm going to tell you the story of a Buffalo Sabres win over the Toronto Maple Leafs that featured goals from Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Mark Pysyk, and a game decider from Sam Reinhart. You'd tell me that was a phenomenal game, right? Well, it was...if you only watched from the third period on.
The Sabres ultimately defeated the Leafs 4-3 in a shootout, but this game wasn't as pretty as the box score makes it sound.
The game started about as bad as any hockey game can start. Twenty-five seconds after the opening faceoff, Leo Komarov snuck behind the defense for an easy tap-in goal. It's hard to say who's at fault for this goal, as Zach Bogosian went for a hit instead of the puck, Eichel and Kane both decided backchecking was optional, and Reinhart and Ristolainen both took the same man leaving Komarov wide open for the easy goal.
Things did not improve as the period went along, and the Leafs would capitalize on a number of idiotic Sabres penalties that both nullified power plays and led to 5-on-3's against with a goal from Sabres legend Brad Boyes. Well, to be specific, Boyes' shot went off Jake McCabe's skate and into the side of the net, but let's just let Brad have this one.
So if the first period featured horrible, lazy, sloppy hockey from the Sabres, the second period must have been better right? Sadly, it was not - in fact, this game looked more like something we would have seen around game #67 last season than anything. Just a team that struggled to get any momentum going, and couldn't get any serious scoring chances to save their life.
They needed a weird goal to turn things around, so of course Mark Pysyk delivered with a kick into the pads of Garret Sparks, who proceeded amidst his flailings to nudge the puck into the net to put the Sabres on the board. Unfortunately, the good vibes would not last long, as the Sabres allowed a goal to Zach Hyman with 19 seconds left - the first goal of his NHL career - to end the second.
However, when all seemed lost, the Sabres turned to Jack Eichel (incidentally, I look forward to typing this hundreds of times over the next 15 years) who would score his 20th of the year midway through the third to give the Sabres some hope. Evander Kane would complete the comeback with a nice backhand from Sam Reinhart, and the two lowly rivals would head to overtime.
Despite earning a powerplay in the extra period, the Sabres couldn't capitalize in OT and the game went to a shootout. The only player to score was Sam Reinhart, who channeled his inner Thomas Vanek with an around-the-world move to beat Garret Sparks and earn the extra point for Buffalo.
The Sabres rolled four even lines tonight in preparation for their game tomorrow against the Rangers.
1. Can Chad Johnson give the Sabres the strong performance in net they need?
Chad played OK tonight, making 30 of 33 saves, with a few key stops on the power play and in overtime. It wasn't an amazing game, but it was an extremely serviceable game from your backup goaltender who hasn't played in two weeks. Good job, Chad.
2. How will the kids play for Toronto?
Pretty well - Zach Hyman scored his first NHL goal, and William Nylander had a few flashy plays that make you dream of Nylander-Eichel matchups for years to come.
3. Who will score tonight?
Lots of folks! Eichel scored his 20th, Kane kept pace with his 19th, Komarov also scored his 19th, Hyman and Pysyk scored their first of the season, and everyone's favorite Brad Boyes got on the scoresheet too.
Comment of the Game
The Maple Leafs are obv Team Rocket
Looks like we're blasting off agaaaaiiiiinnnn.