Tied in the standings with 74 points, the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings got together to end their respective seasons. At stake was a slightly better chance in Tuesday’s lottery, and the potential for a back-to-back win for Buffalo - the first time in 2019.
A touch of pride wafted through the arena as the Sabres traveled to Detroit following a definitive 5-2 win over the league-worst Ottawa Senators in front of a relieved home crowd. Could the Sabres give the fans something to hang their hat on for the summer?
Buffalo forward Sam Reinhart opened the scoring at 3:21, adding to his two points scored against Ottawa. The goal came off of a pass from Jack Eichel, who broke 80 points for the first time in his career with the assist.
The Sabres caught the first power play of the game, and capitalized on the advantage. Rasmus Dahlin potted his ninth goal of the season on assists from Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen. Dahlin has certainly been a highlight of what was largely a disappointing season, and this power play goal was certainly a feather in his cap.
Before the horn ended the first period, Detroit returned the favor with a power play tally of their own. Anthony Mantha scored goal number 25 on the year, ending the scoring for the primary frame.
Buffalo controlled play in the second, holding Detroit to no shots on goal through the first half of the period, and only five shots in the entire 20 minutes. The Sabres, on the other hand, showed a bit of life that has been missing since the calendar flipped.
At 8:37, Conor Sheary scored his 14th of the year, with Casey Nelson and Scott Wilson adding assists. Jeff Skinner and Zemgus Girgensons added goals, the period’s three goals coming on just nine shots. Girgensons chased Jimmy Howard, allowing Kaden Fulcher his first NHL action.
The Red Wings fared no better in the final period. Skinner added his second of the game - 40 on the season, which padded his career-high. Just over a minute later, Brandon Montour scored Buffalo’s final goal of the season. Ristolainen snagged his second point of the evening with the primary assist.
The 7-1 drubbing is the kind of game fans have been waiting for. Finally, the Sabres took it to lesser opponents and showing why fans had playoff expectations for the club. They scored 14 goals in April’s three games; they scored that same number in the last nine games of March.
The season’s woes being what they are, it was a solid win from a team that needed one. Late pushes from Reinhart, Eichel, Skinner, and Rasmus Ristolainen were nice to see, but more importantly for the future, the emergence of players like Victor Olofsson perhaps cast a brighter light on the horizon.
Final score: Buffalo 7 | Detroit 1
Shots: Buffalo 37 | Detroit 24
Sabres Goals: Sam Reinhart (1), Dahlin (1), Conor Sheary (1), Jeff Skinner (2), Zemgus Girgensons (1), Brandon Montour (1)
Detroit Goal: Anthony Mantha
1.) Jeff Skinner (2 goals)
2.) Rasmus Dahlin (GWG, one assist)
3.) Jack Eichel (2 assists)