The Buffalo Sabres completed their first road trip of the season in Tampa tonight.
Their opponents? The defending-Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. A tall task for this young hockey club.
Buffalo held their own relatively well throughout the first period, as they did last week.
Just 2:52 into the period, we achieved Buffalo Sabres hockey history as forward Sam Reinhart recorded his first career NHL goal. More on that below.
After Reinhart’s goal, the Sabres hung around but his goal definitely was the highlight of the evening.
In the 2nd period, Tampa Bay tied things up at 1 when Vlasislav Namestnikov scored his 2nd goal of the season. Namestnikov undressed Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe, with a pass to himself through McCabe’s legs.
Not Jake McCabe’s finest moment, for sure.
The third period featured back-and-forth action, as most hockey games do.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, a late penalty would sink their hopes in this one.
Cody Franson would be in the box due to an interference call, where he was interfering with Alex Killorn. It would come back to bite Franson and the Sabres, as Killorn would go on to score (the game-winning) goal on 20 seconds before the power play expired.
Poetic justice at its finest.
Tonight’s loss drops the Buffalo Sabres to 1-4-0 on the season (2 points).
Buffalo’s next game takes place at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday, October 21 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’ll be a treat, make sure to take a nap or whatever and prepare yourself for a lot of Mike Babcock-related hatred.
- Sam Reinhart Nets First NHL Goal
In his 14th National Hockey League game, highly-touted prospect Sam Reinhart netted his first professional goal. Finally, the weight has been lifted.
In case you missed it, here it is.
— NHL (@NHL) October 17, 2015
What a gorgeous feed and heads up play from fellow forward Tyler Ennis.
It never hurts when your first NHL goal ends up being a beauty. Here is to many, many more goals, Sam.
As the hockey smart asses say: One down, only 893 more to Gretzky.
- Ennis hitting stride early
A few nights ago in Sunrise, Tyler Ennis tallied his first goal of the young National Hockey League season.
One would figure now that the wheel is greased, so Ennis will start scoring, especially with the increased talent around him.
The Tampa Bay Lightning kept Ennis off the board tonight, but his presence surely was felt throughout the contest.
Tyler Ennis led all skaters on the ice tonight with 7 (!) shots in 18:31 time on-ice. Ennis also could be seen all over the ice, including when he dished the puck to Sam Reinhart on a gorgeous play.
Ennis has the tendency to be a player who likes the play going through him, but he has certainly shown an added dimension in the first few games of this young season. If things continue to develop this way, Ennis will be causing even worse headaches for opposing teams on a nightly basis.
This’ll be quick, so please excuse me. I need to confess my growing man-crush that I have on forward Ryan O’Reilly.
Tonight, O’Reilly tallied a forward-high 23:13 time-on-ice and was a +1. O’Reilly didn’t find his way onto the score sheet, but he did find his way to a big win in the faceoff circle.
The Buffalo Sabres took 51 faceoffs tonight. It is not coincidence that O’Reilly took 27 of those. Of the 27 faceoffs taken, O’Reilly won 16 (59%).
A bigger stat to point out, O’Reilly was 4-for-6 on defensive zone faceoffs when the Sabres were on the penalty kill. That’s huge.
After 5 games, O’Reilly leads the Sabres with a 56.8 faceoff win percentage. A number one center who can win faceoffs (in the offensive and defensive zones) seems to be a really nice thing to have, now that Buffalo actually possesses one.
- Chad Johnson Strong, But Not Enough
Facing the Lightning for the second time in a week, Chad Johnson definitely proved his worth in net for the Buffalo Sabres.
Johnson stopped 20 of 22 Lightning shots, but his record drops to a less-than-stellar 1-4-0 in 5 games this season.
One has to wonder (me in particular) when head coach Dan Bylsma decides to take a look at other goaltenders.
A safe bet is that Nathan Lieuwen will make his season debut this week, odds on Saturday due to it being the back end of a back-to-back for the Buffalo Sabres.
Chad Johnson is strong enough to be a backup, but the jury is still out on whether he could carry this team long term.