Score: Sabres 7 | Capitals 4
Shots: BUF 37 | WSH 30
Buffalo Sabres goals: Dylan Cozens (21, 22, 23); Tage Thompson (40); Jeff Skinner (25); Zemgus Girgensons (8); Vinnie Hinostroza (1)
Washington Capitals goals: Dylan Strome (13), T.J. Oshie (15), Alex Ovechkin (33), Sonny Milano (10)
Plus 1: A Lot to Like
A big game with playoff implications required a big effort from the Sabres’ offense, and that’s what they provided on Sunday afternoon. Overall, it was a good team effort, and there are a lot of positives to take out of this one.
With Alex Tuch out week-to-week with a lower-body injury - he was seen wearing a boot on his left foot after the game - it was up to Jack Quinn to step in on the top line alongside Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson. Quinn provides that youthful spark and had a pair of assists - along with his first NHL fight. Thompson became the first Sabres’ 40-goal scorer since 2019, while Skinner scored his 25th of the season and now has 59 points in 55 games.
Tommer came outta nowhere #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/PHAJreOpgf— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 26, 2023
While the top line was productive, the second line was even mores. Cozens, of course, recorded the first hat trick of his young NHL career. Hinostroza, recalled from the AHL’s Rochester Americans with Tuch’s absence, had a nice game too, registering a goal and an assist. Casey Mittelstadt also had two assists. Cozens recorded four points.
What a game for Dylan Cozens— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 26, 2023
Watch all three of his goals from today's game! pic.twitter.com/87XsE0Su9W
The third line was quieter, but you’ve got to love the feistiness we’ve seen from Peyton Krebs as of late. He gets in the way, gets in the opponent’s face and is really adding a nice physical touch to his play that makes him enough of a pest - who can also contribute offensively. Finally, on the fourth line, Girgensons notched his eighth of the season.
Okie and Z making it happen #LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/1jA0iXbOx3— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 26, 2023
On the backend, Mattias Samuelsson, Owen Power and Ilya Lyubushkin each recorded an assist. The Sabres were without the services of top defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who is considered day to day with an injury he’s apparently been playing through, but they didn’t seem to let that bother them.
Minus 0.5: The Response
The one thing you have to point out from Sunday’s game as a negative is how multiple times, the Sabres scored and then quickly let the Capitals rally back with one. After Cozens’ game-opener, it took about four minutes for Strome to tie it. After Thompson regained Buffalo’s lead, it took just fifteen seconds for Oshie to tie it. Late in the second period, three minutes after Cozens’ second goal, the Sabres gave up two goals in just under three minutes, letting the game get a little too close for comfort. Thankfully, this time, they were able to hold on.
Plus 1: Back in A Playoff Spot
With Sunday’s win, the Sabres are back in the second wildcard spot. With how tight everything is, there’s bound to be some ups and downs over the coming weeks. The Islanders sit in the top wildcard spot with 67 points, just one ahead of the Sabres - but Buffalo has a whopping four games in hand over NY. Pittsburgh, Detroit, Florida and Washington are all 1-2 points back of the Sabres.
Every game is going to matter more & more from this point, but the Sabres just need to focus on competing every night and putting in the work to do what they can. You can’t control what those other teams in the running do; just do what you can, and let the chips fall.
The Sabres have now won three straight, and they were three big games over the last four days. They’ve also scored 15 goals in the last three games, and got wins from all three net minders, as Eric Comrie helped beat the Lightning; Craig Anderson was a beast against the Panthers, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen sealed the deal against the Caps.
This week is bound to be an interesting one, not just for the Sabres but throughout the NHL. Trade pieces are continuing to fall into place, and with Tuch out week-to-week (but expected back before the end of the season) and Dahlin currently day-to-day, we’ll see what, if anything, GM Kevyn Adams decides to pull the trigger on in the coming days.
P.S. Huge kudos to the Rochester Americans, who won three in three this weekend and massively outscored their opponents. The Amerks beat Laval 8-4 on Friday and Springfield 7-1 Saturday before topping off the weekend with a 5-1 win over Providence on Sunday.
The Sabres host Columbus on Tuesday in an ESPN+/Hulu exclusive game, before visiting the Bruins Thursday. They also host the Lightning on Saturday afternoon for a 12:30 pm matinee. How many points will the Sabres get out of this week’s upcoming three games?
How many points will the Sabres get out of this week’s upcoming three games?
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