Worth repeating: With today’s win, the Buffalo Sabres are above .500 for the first time since January 24th, 2013.
The Sabres got off to a quick start in today’s matinee game, getting a couple of shots off and drawing a penalty within the first minute. However, their ensuing power play was quiet, struggling on faceoffs and having difficulties entering the zone.
After several minutes of solid back and forth play, the Sabres cashed in on their chance to redeem their power play— Okposo came under pressure in the offensive zone and dropped a nifty pass to Rasmus Ristolainen who sent it across the ice to Jack Eichel for a rocketed Ovechkin-esque one-timer to take the 1-0 lead.
The Sabres took that lead into the intermission, while being only slightly outshot by the Golden Knights 11-10
The second period was full of action. Five minutes into the period, Sam Reinhart claimed a loose puck in the corner and found Eichel in front of the net who dangled Marc-Andre Fluery out of position and tucked the puck under the bar with his backhand for a 2-0 lead.
A few minutes later, Erik Haula received a pass from William Karlsson as the Knights entered the Sabres zone and took a routine shot that deflected off Jake McCabe’s skate and over Carter Hutton to cut the Sabres lead in half.
Less than a minute after that, Marco Scandella took a shot right off an offensive zone faceoff win that deflected off a Knights player and floated over Fluery’s outstretched arm to give the Sabres a two goal lead once again. This was the first Sabres goal by a defenseman this year, handily beating last years mark of 27 (!!!) games before Jake McCabe netted a goal on December 5th, 2017.
Shortly after the Scandella goal, the Sabres dumped the puck into the zone where it was claimed in the corner by Evan Rodrigues. E-Rod passed it to Zemgus Girgensons behind the net to create some space before getting it right back and hitting a wide open Jason Pomminville in front who banged it home for a 4-1 Sabres lead.
At this point the Sabres had three goals on just as many shots.
After some back and forth action that included a couple of near misses and a great save by Hutton on Reilly Smith with about four minutes to go, the period ended at 4-1. The buzzer was quickly drowned out by the roar of the home crowd, who were clearly very appreciative of the second period results. Despite the commanding lead on the scoreboard, the Knights outshot the Sabres 14-5 in the period, giving them an overall 25-15 advantage in shots.
The Golden Knights upped the pressure early on in the third period, earning an early power play on a questionable hooking call on Tage Thompson that proved unsuccessful.
With 9:13 left in the period, Eichel blindly passed it behind himself in the defensive zone and turned the puck over to Jonathan Marchessault who in turn sniped a shot top-shelf to cut the Sabres lead to two.
The Sabres nearly reclaimed the three goal lead immedaitely, as a nice Conor Sheary to Eichel to Reinhart tic-tac-toe effort hit the post and deflected right into a helpless Fleury.
With about three minutes to go, Hutton had a rare misplay of the puck that caused a mad scramble in front of the Buffalo goal, but it was kept out and the Sabres hung on for the 4-2 victory.
Final: Sabres 4, Golden Knights 2
Shots on Goal: Sabres 17 | Golden Knights 37
Sabres Goals: Jack Eichel (2, 3) (PPG), Marco Scandella (1), Jason Pomminville (1)
Golden Knights Goals: Erik Haula (1), Johnathan Marchessault (2)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Jack Eichel (2G)
2. Carter Hutton (35 saves on 37 shots)
3. Kyle Okposo (2A)