Kidz Rule - Sabres Beat Lightning 5-3

Sabres strike Lightning on Kids Takeover Day

Score: Lightning 3 | Sabres 5

Shots: TBL 34 | BUF 34

Buffalo Sabres Goals:

1)    Thompson (42) [Dahlin (49)]

2)    Hinostroza (2) [Mittelstadt (29), Cozens (30)]

3)    Jost (6) [Unassisted]

4)    Quinn (12) [Thompson (40), Skinner (36)]

5)    Skinner (26) [Unassisted]

Tampa Bay Lightning Goals:

1)    Point (39) [Kucherov (65), Stamkos (38)]

2)    Killorn (16) [Perbix (15), Paul (13)]

3)    Killorn (17) [Jeannot (11), Hedman (36)]

Plus 1: Quinn-tastic

It’s only fitting to begin the recap of a Keybank Center “Kids Takover” game by talking about one of the Sabres brightest young stars. With the injury to Alex Tuch, Sabres fans were wondering who would take his spot on the top line with Thompson and Skinner. Jack Quinn was given the nod and has made the most of the opportunity. With his goal against Tampa Bay, he now has 5 points in the 4 games he’s played on the top line. He has perfectly acclimated to the style Skinner and Thompson play and kept the offense flowing during a tight playoff race. Having put his midseason struggles behind him, Quinn’s emergence as a consistent offensive threat will be invaluable as the Sabres fight for a wild card spot.

Minus 1: Stripes Got Some ‘Splaining to Do

I generally leave my gripes about referees on my Twitter feed, but it is impossible to accurately recap this game without mentioning the…questionable performance by the men in the striped sweaters. A few highlights were:

-       Delay of game not called when Hedman shot the puck straight out

-       Samuelsson called for a trip while attempting (and succeeding) to block a shot

-       Late to blow the play dead when Comrie’s mask was off.

-       Dahlin called for kneeing while using his hip to make a hit and proceeded to get jumped by 3 Lightning players. One got a sucker punch in after a dogpile formed. Sabres got the extra penalty on the play.

There were other plays that made the Keybank Center roar with outrage, but those were the most egregious. Despite the unanticipated challenge, Buffalo didn’t back down, complain, or lose focus. Granato kept his team battling for the vital victory against a formidable opponent.

Plus 2: Stillman Answers the Bell

Not much was expected from Riley Stillman when he was acquired from Vancouver, but he has made his presence known quickly. He led the Sabres in hits against the Bruins in his debut and continued the physical play against the Lightning. Most notably, he laid out Ian Cole at the defensive blue line during the first period with a beautiful hip check. Cole had just dumped the puck in, and Stillman wasn’t letting him go without a proper greeting. The bone-crushing check energized the entire arena. As the second period became chippy, Stillman squared off with another recent acquisition Tanner Jeannot. It didn’t go well for Stillman, and he missed the rest of the game because of the fight. However, his willingness to drop the gloves to take some of the heat of teammates he only met a few days ago speaks volumes about his character and shows what kind of edge he can bring to the Sabres lineup. Hopefully, he is feeling better soon after taking a nasty uppercut from Jeannot.

Final Thoughts

After a two-game slide, this was the exact kind of game Buffalo needed to regain their footing in the playoff race. The offense was electric, the defense was stingy, and the goaltending was steady. The return of Dahlin cannot be understated. He completely changes how the Sabre defense operates. He routinely won battles in the corner against multiple forcheckers and prevented Tampa Bay from creating sustained pressure. Casey Mittelstadt continued his recent impactful play. His set up on Hinostroza’s goal was a beauty, and he could have easily contributed more had it not been for some timely saves by Brian Elliott. This Sabre team doesn’t back down from a challenge, and they’ll need to continue to rise to the occasion as each game becomes more meaningful than the last.