A young Buffalo Sabres lineup filled with many players lacking NHL experience just couldn’t stack up against a heavy Pittsburgh Penguins lineup in the Sabres’ penultimate preseason game Wednesday night.
The Sabres’ roster included ten players who have played less than 50 NHL games in their careers to date. The young roster was crowded with guys like Nicholas Baptiste, Justin Bailey and Rasmus Asplund who are all likely headed to the AHL’s Rochester Americans in the coming days.
In the end, playing such a young roster against a Penguins’ lineup that included Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang didn’t pan out well for the Sabres. But here’s the good news: it’s only preseason, and the Sabres were missing some of their big guns like Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin.
The game didn’t start off on an awful footing for the Sabres. The Pens got some juicy rebounds off Linus Ullmark but weren’t able to put it in the back of the net - at first.
Kessel opened the scoring with under three minutes to play in the opening frame as his shot hit Ullmark’s shoulder, went off his equipment and ended up in the net.
Kessel scored his second of the night with just six seconds left on a bar-down shot from the left circle that went through three Sabres players.
The man, the myth, the legend. Phil Kessel cannot be stopped.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 26, 2018
The Penguins lead 2-0 after the 1st period of play. pic.twitter.com/1b6qfaDKDD
Overall, the Sabres registered just one shot on goal in the final 11:10 of the opening frame, which would just be the beginning of their struggles as the night went on.
Johan Larsson limped off the ice early in the second period, favoring his left leg. He didn’t return to the game.
Coming into the second period down by a pair, the Sabres stepped up to get on the board. Buffalo took advantage of a flub by Letang which resulted in the puck ending up on Marco Scandella’s stick. A pass to Jason Pominville - and then a pass from the corner to Alex Nylander - led to the goal.
But the good vibes didn’t last long for Buffalo. On his next shift, Letang - the veteran defenseman that he is - made up for his mistake by making it 3-1 on a screen shot.
Once again, as the period went on, the Sabres lost their luster. They went nearly eight minutes without a shot in the middle of the period.
Things went from bad to worse as Derick Brassard took advantage of a Baptiste penalty - which he drew - to make it a 4-1 game on a pass along the goal line. Just seconds later, Matt Cullen made it a four-goal game with a nice move on the doorstep to take advantage of a puck laying in the crease.
The Penguins managed three goals on 10 shots in the second period - and as the Penguins’ radio broadcasting team said, the Sabres just looked lost.
The third period wasn’t much better, as Buffalo took nearly seven minutes to get their first shot on goal and weren’t able to gather much steam throughout the final twenty.
Again: you can’t put too much stock into tonight’s loss. Many of the players on the Sabres’ roster are likely to end up in Rochester, with tonight possibly their final shot at showing Jason Botterill and co. what they’ve got before they get cut.
Putting such an inexperienced, young roster on the ice against a stacked team of players like the Penguins is, well, a recipe for disaster.
The Sabres have one more preseason game to tend to: Friday against the John Tavares-less NY Islanders in Oshawa, Ontario.
Final Score: Penguins 5 | Sabres 1
Shots on Goal: Penguins 32 | Sabres 22
Sabres Goals: Nylander (1)
Penguins Goals: Kessel (1, 2); Letang (2); Brassard (1); Cullen (3)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Phil Kessel (2 goals, plus-2, 3 shots)
2. Kris Letang (1 goal, 5 shots)
3. Alex Nylander (1 goal, 3 shots)