Tonight in Tampa, the Buffalo Sabres snapped their 7-game losing streak against the Tampa Bay Lighting, and avoided a 4-game season sweep.
When the puck dropped to open the game, you’d be hard pressed to find a team better prepared than the Buffalo Sabres. The first few minutes of action featured the Sabres parking themselves in the offensive zone, while cycling lines. Tampa was on their heels quick.
The Sabres consistent pressure led to a hooking call and a power play opportunity.
As the case has been this season, the Buffalo Sabres were able to take advantage of their man-advantage.
Tampa Bay’s defense looked up to the task, but Jack Eichel had other plans. Eichel positioned himself near the offensive zone faceoff dot and sniped a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Eichel’s 6th of the season, at 5:57 in the first, put Buffalo up 1-0.
Buffalo kept their foot on the accelerator throughout the duration of the first period. While Buffalo only tallied 5 more shots than Tampa (9-4), they clearly controlled the pace of play.
Seeing how Buffalo responded after such a strong period would be key to how this game unfolded.
Things did not appear to be taking the right turn for the Sabres, following an early Ryan O’Reilly high-sticking penalty. You see, Steven Stamkos did what Steven Stamkos does a lot: scores goals.
Remember how Eichel was left alone in the first when he scored his goal? Yeah, the Sabres did this on the Stamkos goal. Not a good idea at all, especially with a guy who has 280+ career goals.
Stamkos’ 8th of the season, at just 52 seconds into the second, tied things up at 1.
The game was turned back on its head less than a minute later, when Cody Franson took a wicked wrist shot as he skated into the zone from a line change. Franson’s shot audibly hit the post and appeared to be like it would pop out. Instead, Franson’s shot popped in and past Vasilevskiy.
Franson’s 1st goal of the season, at 1:40 in the second, put Buffalo on top, 2-1.
When the clock began on the third period, the Sabres had a tough task at hand: stopping the potential of the Lighting offense.
Tampa Bay was able to apply pressure offensively and Buffalo found themselves bending but not breaking.
Marcus Foligno was able to give the Sabres a little more breathing room with his first goal of the season, at 5:24 of the third. It appeared as if Foligno’s shot tipped off of Vasilevskiy’s glove and in. No matter the case, the puck crossed the line and Buffalo took a 3-1 lead.
This gave Buffalo some breathing room down the stretch.
As the period continued to tick down, the pressure increased for the Buffalo Sabres. While the Sabres have been playing better hockey, the opponents just so happen to be the defending Eastern Conference Champions. No benefit of the doubt given in a situation like this.
Tampa Bay pulled Vasilevskiy with around 3 minutes left. The Sabres fought off the Lighting and iced the game with 36 seconds remaining.
Rasmus Ristolainen’s 4th goal of the season would lock up a 4-1 Buffalo Sabres victory.
With this win, Buffalo moves to 7-8-0 on the season. The Sabres sit in 6th in the Atlantic (with 14 points) and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Now, onto the #grit of the recap:
We always discuss here how great Jack Eichel is. I feel like we have understated that greatness.
Every game, Jack Eichel does something else that gets our brain cells tingling. He blows by veteran NHL defensemen (Jason Garrison) and draws penalties. He has fantastic reach, can handle the puck in most situations.
Oh, and he can snipe like not many other NHL’ers can.
Just watch this GIF loop and try not to drool everywhere.
Eichel PPG pic.twitter.com/1i4lx5ksal
— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
He good, he real good.
- Johnson Bounces Back
I am always a big fan of giving credit where it is due.
This season has been a mixed bag so far for goaltender Chad Johnson. Before tonight’s start, Johnson had an almost 3.00 GAA and a save percentage below .900. Ugly numbers for any goaltender, let alone a starting goaltender.
Now, we know Johnson isn’t cut from the starter mold but he is here out of necessity.
Personally, I’ve been very vocal about Johnson’s inability to be consistently OK.
Tonight, Johnson was spectacular with 30 saves on 31 shots. He seemed to be every where the puck was shot or headed.
The most explosive save of the evening is below. Hope y’all enjoy, it was p dece.
Chad Johnson save pic.twitter.com/KFMUHZKJTU
— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
lol. chad johnson is funny, eh?
Johnson also added his 2nd career point, the hypothetical cherry on top of the impressive victory.
Chad Johnson's assist on Ristolainen's empty netter was the first by a Sabres goaltender since Connor Knapp on 4/13/14 vs. NYI.
— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) November 11, 2015
- Offense is not offensive.
Boy oh boy, it feels good to score some goals. You see how the Lightning are struggling lately and you remember what it is like to be mired in a nasty goal scoring drought as a team.
Yeah, Eichel scored. That’s almost becoming something we can expect to happen. Ristolainen? He’s on a red-hot goal scoring streak.
As for the other scorers, you have a Franson and a Foligno. We call that “secondary scoring”, something that every successful team needs.
Oh hey, and Chad Johnson even got an assist. Maybe we can call that “thirdary scoring”. I just made that up, I can do that because I have a blog.
Things are going good for the Sabres right now. These are the kinds of games that you build a great stretch off of. Only time will tell, but things are trending in the right direction.