After a 7-2 beat-down at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday evening, the Buffalo Sabres (and their fans) were desperate for a win. In a hard-fought battle at the Saddle Dome yesterday, they found themselves back in the win column, holding strong to force overtime and emerge victorious in a very close matchup with the Calgary Flames.
In the waning moments of an exciting, fast-paced first period it appeared that the opening frame would remain scoreless. That was, until Johnny Gaudreau notched his 28th tally of the season on the power-play with just one second remaining on the clock.
After a last-ditch shot attempt rebounded off of Linus Ullmark’s right pad, Gaudreau was in prime position to tap-in the rebound with no time to spare, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
The second period started similar to the way the first one ended. The Flames were flying up and down the ice, easily thwarting the Sabres attack. Just when it look like the momentum had totally shifted in Calgary’s favor, Evan Rodrigues provided a spark with a gorgeous breakaway goal to even the score.
Casey Mittelstadt threaded a pass through traffic to find Rodrigues standing alone near the Flames’ blue line for a one-on-one opportunity against goaltender, David Rittich. The goal marked his fourth tally the season. Mittelstadt’s assist (his seventh of the year) marked the first time that he’s registered a point in consecutive games since October.
A substantial amount of credit should be given to Ullmark for his performance in the middle frame, stopping a few excellent (potentially game-changing) opportunities despite only facing eight shots.
Things got a little gloomy again to start the third period when Matthew Tkachuk regained Calgary’s lead at 6:49. With Rasmus Dahlin in the penalty box, the Flames were able to convert with the man-advantage yet again. After cycling the puck deep in the Sabres’ zone, Elias Lindholm found Tkchauk unimpeded in front of the net for an easy tap-in. The goal marked his 24th of the season.
Less than one minute later, Dahlin made amends for the penalty by notching fifth of the season with an absolute rocket from the point. Jack Eichel made a nice individual effort to get the puck deep in the zone and dish it to Sam Reinhart who found Dahlin for the game tying tally.
Slowly but surely, the Sabres were gaining new life in a game that had the makings of a potential disaster early on. At 10:56, Jake McCabe gave Buffalo its first lead of the evening with another beautiful shot from the point. After the flames defenders appeared to have thwarted a three-man rush in deep, the puck found its way to McCabe’s stick before exiting the zone for his fourth of the 2018-19 campaign.
The Flames weren’t done just yet. Less than a minute later, the back-and-forth affair continued when Noah Hanifin found the back of the cage for his fourth goal of the season.
With traffic in front of the net, Ullmark was unable to see the wrist shot coming from the point which marked the second such occasion on the evening where Calgary was able to convert with no opposition in front of the crease.
Both teams reverted to a more conservative style of play for the remainder of the period, forcing overtime in a very evenly-contested affair. After being held without a goal since his return from injury, Eichel had been the recipient of some very unfair criticism on social media this week. Those voices will be pretty silent after watching the captain’s solo effort to secure victory just over a minute into the extra frame.
Clearly fatigued as he came toward the end of his shift, Eichel gave one last burst of effort before heading to the bench. Skating down the right side of the ice, he made his way around two Flames defenders and launched a beautiful wrister past Rittich to seal the 4-3 victory for his squad.
If the Sabres can emerge victorious in Vancouver on Friday night, they will secure two more much-needed points as they head into the All-Star break. Standing just two points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand, the blue-and-gold will need all the points they can get. Going into the bye on a two-game winning streak could set the tone for what the team is able to achieve down the stretch.
Puck drop is set for 10:00 PM at Rogers Arena.
Final: Sabres 4, Flames 3 (OT)
Shots on Goal: Sabres 23 | Flames 33
Sabres Goal Scorers: Evan Rodrigues (4), Rasmus Dahlin (5), Jake McCabe (4), Jack Eichel (16)
Flames Goal Scorers: Johnny Gaudreau (28), Matthew Tkachuk (24), Noah Hanifin (4)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Jack Eichel (1G, 1A)
2. Johnny Gaudreau (1G, 1A)
3. Linus Ullmark (30 Saves)