Score: Sabres 4 | Senators 1
Shots: BUF 36 | OTT 36
Buffalo Sabres Goals: JJ Peterka (1), Rasmus Dahlin (1), Victor Olofsson (1-EN, 2-EN)
Ottawa Senators Goals: Brady Tkachuk (1)
Period 1: Ottawa Takes the First Lead
While the first powerplay of the game was early on and in favor of Buffalo, it was unsuccessful. And, not for “lack of intensity,” as indicated by commentator Dan Dunleavy, the first half of the opening period was scoreless. That is, until winger Drake Batherson sashayed down the left side of the ice with a nifty pass to Brady Tkachuk who beat goaltender Craig Anderson on his left side to make it 1-0 mere seconds later.
Despite trailing after 20 minutes, the Sabres did look more than ready for a new season and it was fun to watch all the fresh faces dressed in blue and gold. As the youngest team in the league with an average age of 25, many were celebrating the first period of their first game in their first full NHL season...ever. How fun is that?
Period 2: Peterka and Dahlin Shine
“That is how you introduce yourself to the national hockey league in the city of Buffalo!” - Dunleavy on Peterka
Five minutes into the second period, Dylan Cozens made himself quite visible with a play along the boards through the neutral zone. After a few passes back and forth with JJ Peterka, the latter finished off the play with a beautiful puck flip into the net to tie it 1-1. This was Peterka’s first ever NHL goal and it was a thing of beauty.
Just a few minutes later, Peyton Krebs would find alternate captain Rasmus Dahlin in front of the net, helping the Sabres to steal the lead, 2-1.
Later in the period after some tough calls, Buffalo was forced to work off a :49 five-on-three penalty kill and not only did so successfully, but exited the man disadvantage unscathed.
Period 3: Empty Net Goal-Ofsson
The final period began with a powerplay for Ottawa that carried over from the second period. Buffalo’s defense was able to kill it and the home team carried the lead through their next powerplay that came after Jacob Bryson got a high stick to the face 10 minutes in. Though no goal was scored the whole game with the man advantage, Olofsson added not one but two empty netters to the scoreboard giving Buffalo a solid win, 4-1.
The opening ceremony for tonight’s season/home opener was an emotional one as the families of the May 14 Buffalo shooting victims were honored. “Choose Love” echoed through the building and has now set the tone for the remainder of the year and hopefully years to come.
Following the puck drop, though the Senators struck first, Buffalo never faltered in their efforts to take back control of the game. The Sabres of the past may have given up or lacked the mentality to win, but the Sabres of today seem to be moving in the right direction. Head coach Don Granato’s clear vision of finding ways to fight back and bury pucks were evident in this opener and fans should feel optimistic that this season will build upon the improvements that began the second half of last season.
Dahlin played an excellent 60 minutes and led the team in ice time with 24:17. In his 20th NHL season, Anderson looked exactly how you would want your starting goaltender to look. He made some great saves and kept the Sabres alive - especially in the first two periods.
While it is only day one of the season, there seems to be much to look forward to with so many young guys on the team. With five players under the age of 22, the future looks bright in Buffalo.
1. Craig Anderson (.972 SV%)
2. JJ Peterka (First NHL Goal, TOI 11:55)
3. Victor Olofsson (Two Goals, TOI 14:42)