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Sabres Fall to Pens in OT, Skinner Facing Player Safety

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Buffalo Sabres v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Score: Sabres 3 | Penguins 4

Shots: BUF 31 | PIT 33

Buffalo Sabres Goals: Victor Olofsson (12), Jeff Skinner (13), Kyle Okposo (2)

Pittsburgh Penguins Goals: Jake Guentzel (13), Rickard Rakell (11), Brock McGinn (8), Jeff Carter (OT-GWG, 4)

Plus-1: The Offense was Flowing

For the most part, the Sabres didn’t play a bad game on Friday night. The game remained scoreless for over 35 minutes to start, but the Sabres’ offense was clearly flowing. Buffalo was outshooting Pittsburgh and getting plenty of chances. I saw someone on Twitter say there were 2 big differences between this game and the one in Columbus: the Penguins actually had a competent goaltender, and the Sabres didn’t get as many power play opportunities. Otherwise, Buffalo was ready to roll.

That said, when Guentzel opened the scoring for the Penguins, you just kind of knew that was coming. With how many opportunities the Sabres had gotten, it felt like that kind of game where one fluky or weird call was going to throw momentum in the opposite direction.

The good news is that the Sabres wasted little time in coming back to tie it, then take the lead. Nice to see Olofsson producing - that was his 12th goal of the season - and before we get into what happened later in the game, let’s take a minute to appreciate that Jeff Skinner has changed his goal song from Whitney Houston to Mariah Carey. Tis the season!

Plus/Minus 1: Special Teams

Before we get into that thing at the end of the game, we need to take a moment to appreciate a huge penalty kill the Sabres pulled off in the first period. The Pens hadn’t had many opportunities up until that point, so you knew they were going to attack hard on the power play. At one point, two of the four Buffalo skaters were without sticks - they were broken or otherwise lost - and the Sabres couldn’t get out of their own end. Yet somehow, over and over again, they found ways to block shots, creatively make the Penguins take that extra step, and ultimately killed it.

Some of the calls against the Sabres were admittedly not great. Unfortunately, you have to take what the game gives you, even if you’re not happy with it.

Now... the cross-check from Skinner near the end of the game. He clearly didn’t like how Guentzel went after the puck that Anderson had already covered, and you want to see a guy protect his goalie in that situation. Unfortunately for Jeff, you just can’t cross-check a guy over and over and then do it in his face like that.

It put the Sabres in a near impossible position, having a five-minute match penalty to kill off with 21 seconds left in regulation in a tied game. The best we could hope for in that situation was for them to make it to overtime, which they did. But killing off 4:39 of a 5:00 overtime period shorthanded would have been a Herculean task. It just wasn’t going to happen, and it cost them the game.

Now, Skinner faces a hearing with NHL Player Safety and likely a suspension.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the night, lots to like from this one, but some things to work on. With Skinner likely facing a suspension, it seems that Rasmus Asplund may slot back into the lineup for Saturday’s rematch in Pittsburgh. Craig Anderson made a lot of good saves on Friday night, but there were a few that he should’ve had and didn’t. Now, it’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s turn in net.

The Sabres return to action against the Penguins Saturday at 7 p.m.