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Recap: Sabres open Prospects Challenge with win over Devils

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Dahlin shines as scoring and big hits highlight victory

United States v Korea - 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

If you come across a Sabres fan pinching themselves tomorrow, do not be alarmed. It’s likely they’re doing their best to make sure they’re not dreaming following a 6-4 victory over the New Jersey Devils in the team’s first matchup at this season’s Prospects Challenge.

Going into the game, there were certainly high expectations for first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin. In case you missed it, he got his first goal in a Sabres uniform, his first game winning goal as a Buffalo Sabre, and led all scorers on the night with three points.

It wasn’t a pretty win for Buffalo, who saw a fair share of gaffes in the second period that allowed Jersey to hang around. In the end, though, a tight third period gave the Sabres’ prospects the edge and the first win of the season.

The young Sabres demonstrated equal parts speed and physicality in the first period, and though both teams had several chances, Buffalo broke open the scoring at the 17:31 mark with a Cole Koskey goal at even strength. In what would become a recurring theme, the Devils tied the game less than 90 seconds later, when Brett Seney scored the team’s only power play goal of the game. The period ended in the 1-1 tie, with New Jersey holding a slight advantage in shots.

The second period was a wide-open free for all that saw the Sabres’ penalty kill outscore the power play units of the Devils. The first goal of the period came from Rochester Americans standout Victor Olofsson, who took a nice pass from Rasmus Asplund to beat the Devils’ goaltender. Again, it wouldn’t take long for the Devils to tie the game - 35 seconds later, Nathan Bastian tied the game with 12:23 remaining in the frame.

In another fantastic effort from Asplund, Alex Nylander scored his first of the night, shorthanded. Asplund out-battled the Devil’s penalty kill to give Nylander time to get to the net. Once the pass was on his stick, Nylander played goalie Mackenzie Blackwood like a puppet until he had enough space to bury the puck. Buffalo scored again a minute later when Dahlin picked up his first of the night; a shot from the point that errantly deflected past Blackwood. It wouldn’t be a minute before New Jersey buried two goals behind Jonas Johansson, tying the game at four. The second period ended with the two teams knotted.

Clearly, the Sabres made the right adjustments in the second intermission. The team outshot the Devils for the first time all game, ending the third period up 13-8, despite being short-handed for a full two minutes. Dahlin scored at 4:26 to take the 5-4 lead, and Tage Thompson scored an impressive shortie to seal the deal for Buffalo.

The scoresheet doesn’t necessarily indicate the flow of the game. Buffalo seemed to dominate for the most part, with all of the Devils’ goals coming amidst brief confusion. While not mistake-free, the Sabres’ prospects put on a solid show against players of similar age. The true test will be when the players face the older, bigger competition of the NHL.

Final: Sabres 6, Devils 4

Shots on Goal: Sabres 32 | Devils 34

Sabres Goal Scorers: Coskey (1), Olofsson (1), Nylander (1), Dahlin (1,2), Thompson (1)

Devils Goal Scorers: Seney (1), Bastion (1), White (1) and Zetterlund (1)

Three Stars of the Game

1. Rasmus Dahlin (2 G, 1 A)

2. Rasmus Asplund (2 A)

3. Tage Thompson (1 G)