In a game that was everything you would expect from two teams trying to claw their way into the playoff picture, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on home ice.
Despite out-playing their opponents for a good chunk of the first two periods, and forcing overtime with two late third period goals, the Sabres never took the lead in this one. As has been the case in their last few matchups, defensive zone follies were the story of the night for the blue-and-gold. Poor vision and lost assignments helped the Hurricanes to get into high-danger areas with ease and allowed them to convert six times on just 30 shots.
Carolina got the scoring started around four minutes into the opening frame. After taking a while to get their legs to start the game, the Sabres were hemmed in their own end and eventually Justin Faulk was able to capitalize, registering his fifth goal of the season.
That tally appeared to flip a switch for the Sabres’ fore-checkers, as they dominated possession for the remainder of the period despite heading into the locker room down 1-0.
The Hurricanes wasted little time in regaining the momentum in the early portion of the second period. At 1:37, Teuvo Teravainen converted on his 13th goal of the season to give his team a 2-0 lead. After Marco Scandella mis-played the puck in front of the net, Teravainen was able to capitalize on the ensuing commotion.
At 8:15 the Sabres finally made their way onto the score sheet when Evan Rodrigues notched his eighth of the season. Just as time expired on the power-play, Rodrigues buried a shot from the left side of the net to bring the Sabres within a goal. That marker gave him six points in his last seven games.
Seven minutes later, Jason Pominville continued to swing the momentum in the Sabres’ favor, tying the contest at 15:14 with his 12th goal of the 2018-19 campaign. With Rodrigues providing traffic in the crease, Pominville buried his own rebound past McElhinney to even the score ahead of the second intermission.
An already exciting affair absolutely exploded in the third period with neither team willing to go quietly into the Buffalo night. Under two minutes into the final frame, Greg McKegg continued his team’s early-period efficiency, regaining a 3-2 lead on his fourth goal of the season. Every Sabre on the ice had their eyes affixed on Trevor van Riemsdyk at the point, completely ignoring the wide-open McKegg on the left side where he was able to tap-in an easy goal past Ullmark.
Just over four minutes later, Jeff Skinner scored the most impressive goal of the night to once again tie the game and give the Sabres a much-needed boost early in the third. On a pseudo-breakaway with a Carolina defender draped on his back, Skinner shoved the puck past McElhinney with one hand for his 32nd tally of the year.
The back-and-forth continued at 11:03 when Brock McGinn posted his fifth goal of the season. Jordan Martinook found McGinn wide open from behind the net where he was able to bury an uncontested shot to put his team back in the driver’s seat at 4-3.
Thing began to look especially dreary with under five minutes to go when Nino Niederreiter scored his 15th of the year. After a questionable, untimely penalty was called on Skinner, the newly-acquired forward converted in the opening moments of the man-advantage for what appeared to be a finishing blow.
Less than a minute later, Marco Scandella helped give the Sabres a glimmer of hope, firing a shot over the shoulder of a sprawled-out McElhinney for his fourth of the season.
With Ullmark on the bench the, in heroic fashion, Skinner played the role of captain clutch once again, tying the contest at 5-5 with 56 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime in a game that appeared all but lost.
After Sam Reinhart entered the zone, he fired a pass through traffic, finding a wide-open Skinner who beat the goaltender for his 33rd.
While they did salvage a point, the Sabres simply could not hold-on for the victory in overtime. Skating into the Buffalo zone on a 2-on-0, Teravainen converted on his second goal of the evening to seal the deal and give his team a critical two-points in a closely-contested Eastern Conference playoff race.
At the end of the day, the Sabres have allowed 17 goals in their last three games on home ice. If they intend to regain ground and put themselves back into a playoff spot, lackluster defensive efforts like this aren’t going to cut it. Unless they figure out a way to shore things up in front of a goaltending tandem that has effectively stopped bailing them out of poor performances, they’ll continue to falter.
Final: Hurricanes 6, Sabres 5 (OT)
Shots on Goal: Hurricanes 30 | Sabres 39
Sabres Goal Scorers: Rodrigues (8), Pominville (12), Skinner (32, 33) Scandella (4)
Hurricanes Goal Scorers: Faulk (5), Teravainen (13, 14) McKegg (4), Niederreiter (15) McGinn (5)