Editor’s Note: Die By the Blade’s Managing Editor, Melissa Burgess, recently published “10 Moments to Remember from the 2022-23 Sabres Season”. In that spirit, I’ve included a few other times readers might also enjoy reminiscing about (No. 1 overlaps).
1) Buffalo Beats the Bruins in Boston on New Year’s Eve: Dec. 31, 2022
The Boston Bruins sit at or near the top of the NHL’s Atlantic Division year after year, dashing many opponents’ Stanley Cup hopes and hanging on with Tom Brady-like stubbornness. With a seemingly permanent dominance and thugs such as Brad Marchand, who never met a cheap shot the refs didn’t let him get away with, it’s a franchise the rest of NHL fandom loves to hate.
The Sabres are no strangers to losing to the Bruins at home or in New England. So it was a rare treat to watch Buffalo best the hosts in TD Garden on New Year’s Eve. The game didn’t start off on the right foot, with David Pastrnak scoring first at the opening period’s 13:09 mark. Tage Thompson answered back three minutes later to tie it up and Alex Tuch scored 2:03 into the second the give the Sabres a 2-1 lead.
Boston came back in the third, with two unanswered goals by Patrice Bergeron and Marchand to make it 3-2 Bruins. Thankfully, Dylan Cozens forced an OT, getting the tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation.
Tuch got the OT winner to close out 2022 with four points on the road. (In case you missed it, Melissa posted it here).
2) Sabres Are Scary Good on Halloween Night, Rout Red Wings 8-3: Oct. 31, 2022
It wasn’t the case this season, but the Detroit Red Wings were a thorn in Buffalo’s side the previous year, defeating the Sabres in all four meetings in 2021-22. While three of those four losses came in overtime, it was inexcusable to lose so often to a team that finished in the division’s 6th place.
This season, the Sabres beat the Wings all four times and it started on All Hallow’s Eve in downtown Buffalo. Tage Thompson had a hat trick, scoring the opening goal and one apiece in each period. TNT got his third one with just 4:02 left in the game, and the hats came pouring down onto the ice.
Jack Quinn, Jeff Skinner, Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Rasmus Asplund each contributed a goal to put eight total in Detroit’s net and spook the Red Wings, who haven’t beaten the Blue and Gold since.
3) Levi and Co. Win Second Shootout Against Rangers: Apr. 10, 2023
The New York Rangers are another opponent the Sabres struggled against until recently. Before Devon Levi’s NHL debut, when Buffalo prevailed 3-2 in OT, the Blueshirts were the victors in their previous six matchups, not losing to the Sabres since Apr. 3, 2021.
Observers, including bettors, doubted the Blue and Gold could beat New York twice in less than two weeks, especially in Madison Square Garden. The underdogs proved their detractors wrong. JJ Peterka got Buffalo on the board first early in the opening period. Artemi Panarin answered back with two goals in the second, but Casey Mittelstadt tied things up midway through the third.
The game went to overtime and nobody scored, so both goalies prepared for a shootout. Levi already proved he could win an SO, helping defeat the Detroit Red Wings 7-6 just four days earlier. Could he do it again? Nervous fans waited in anticipation.
The best of three came and went with no shooter able to beat Levi or Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin. Owen Power got a wrist shot past Shesterkin, but Vladimir Tarasenko shot one in on Levi. Casey Mittelstadt backhanded the puck into the net and it all came down to Kaapo Kaako. Levi followed his every move, Kaako tripped over the goalie’s stick and it was all over. Buffalo won.
4) Comrie Helps Sabres Shutout Islanders 2-0: Mar. 25, 2023
Sabres GM Kevyn Adams expected new netminder Eric Comrie would be part of the team’s goaltending solution in 2022-23. Things didn’t work out so well, and No. 31 finished this season with an .886 SV% and 3.67 GAA. His worst game was Mar. 9, when he let in 10 goals against the Dallas Stars.
Comrie needed to redeem himself and did Mar. 25 on Long Island. He stopped 26 shots and kept New York from getting any pucks past him all night. Islanders goalie Seymon Varlamov was also great, making 33 saves, but Kyle Okposo finally beat him at the third period’s 3:31 mark.
The Islanders pulled their goalie to try to tie it up, but Comrie closed them down and Jeff Skinner scored an empty netter to make the final score 2-0. It was only the second shutout in No. 31’s career. Comrie may not be back next year, but his performance in this contest was one of his best.
5) Sabres Bury Avalanche in Colorado: Dec. 15, 2022
Buffalo proved over the course of this season that the team could beat some of the best. The Sabres did just that on Dec. 15, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champions 4-2 in Denver.
The Blue and Gold dominated from the start, with Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch making it 2-0 Buffalo during the first period. Rasmus Dahlin added to the visitors’ goal total in the second, leaving it 3-0 Sabres after 40 minutes.
The Avs didn’t get any offensive production going until the third, when Mikko Ratanen made it 3-1 Buffalo. The Avs pulled their goalie, and former Sabre Evan Rodrigues scored to put the hosts within one. However, Dylan Cozens came to the rescue, getting an empty netter with 57 seconds remaining to put this one out of reach.
UPL was outstanding, making a career 39 saves on 41 shots. While other Buffalo matchups this season may be more memorable, this was the Sabres at their finest, outscoring one of the NHL’s best teams on their home turf.
Those are some of my top five favorite Sabres games this season. What are yours?