Score: Sabres 24 | Golden Knights 31
Shots: BUF 3 | VGK 1
Buffalo Sabres Goals:
1) Krebs (Hinostroza, Cozens)
2) Olofsson (Okposo, Jokiharju)
3) Tuch (Unassisted) (EN)
Vegas Golden Knights Goals:
1) Hutton (Unassisted)
Plus 1: The Boys Came to Play
It was great to see a large turnout from Buffalo fans who clearly wanted to voice their displeasure on how their former captain’s tenure ended. The engaged crowed fueled the Sabres’ skaters who did not disappoint. Right from the opening puck drop, the Sabres were flying all over the rink. It took Vegas nearly 10 minutes to get their first shot on net. Once Vegas did get their offensive act together, Craig Anderson was ready to shut them down. Every Sabres line found a way to contribute, and the full team effort was rewarded with a hard-fought win. Speaking of fights…
Plus 2: Never Back Down
Fighting has become infrequent in the modern NHL game and the Sabres are not known for dropping the mitts too often. This was not the case tonight. Starting off early in the 2nd period with John Hayden overpowering Ben Hutton in a scrap, both teams were at each other’s throat’s all game. A few minutes after Hayden’s fight, Casey Fitzgerald went for a big hit at center ice that Keegan Kolesar took exception to. Kolesar challenged Fitzgerald who performed well in the fight despite Kolesar having over 30lbs on Fitzgerald. The moment that crossed the line was when Kolesar sucker punched Fitzgerald three times while on the ice as the refs were trying to break up the fight. This was an absolute gutless move that resulted in Fitzgerald missing the rest of the game. However, Buffalo did not shy away from the physical play in this game, and it even led to their victory. Samuelsson crushed Marchessault in the corner who proceeded to take the penalty that would lead to the Sabres the game winning goal. Tuch also dropped Eichel in the corner for one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Plus 3: Anderson Makes History
This game was supposed to be a milestone game for a certain American-born player in Buffalo, and it sure was. Craig Anderson was light’s out all game, and especially sharp in the 2nd period when it seemed like Vegas had found their offensive footing. Outside of a blooper point shot, Anderson was near perfect in route to his 300th NHL win. He is only the 6th American born goalie and 3rd Sabre to reach this milestone with Ryan Miller and Tom Barrasso being the others. In a night that was circled on the calendar across the league, Anderson stole the show. RJ might have requested the cops be called because Anderson robbed Eichel of a storybook return.
Enough cannot be said about how good this win feels for Sabres fans. It might just be two points in the standings, but it was the biggest win of the season. The arena was more packed than at any point this season. The intensity could be felt by anyone watching. It had fights, huge saves, unlikely heroes, and a defined villain. It was a small taste of what hockey in Buffalo will be like when the Sabres figure it out an contend for the playoffs. This city still loves hockey, and we appreciate a hard-fought win. It was truly fitting that Krebs opened the scoring and Tuch finished the game with an empty netter while Eichel helplessly watched from the neutral zone.
Beyond that, with injuries to Asplund and Fitzgerald, Buffalo had to dig deep and embrace a “next man up” philosophy is a big game. They were able to find a way to win and gave Sabres fans a night full of optimism for the future. Here’s to hoping they take this same passion into the Heritage Classic versus the Leafs on Sunday. Let’s Go Buffalo!