The Buffalo Sabres bounced back from a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a huge 2-1 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings at the First Niagara Center.
On Monday, the Sabres were back on the road in Detroit to take on the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
The first period was a good back-and-forth period, with both teams not able to find the back of the net. Buffalo led the period in shots, 9-6, and were also ahead in the possession category, 17-16.
In the second, the Red Wings found the back of the net first courtesy of Brad Richards. The play started with Darren Helm gathering a loose puck, then Pavel Datsyuk set up the play with a nice zone entry into the Buffalo zone. Datsyuk looked like he would shoot from the slot, but instead fed it over to Richards, who one-timed the shot past Chad Johnson at the 4:01 mark.
The Red Wings would almost go up 2-0 in the second period as Tomas Jurco was slashed on a breakaway. Jurco was awarded a penalty shot, but Johnson stood tall and made the save to keep it a one goal game.
The Sabres would go into the second intermission trailing 1-0, but playing solid, positional hockey and keeping pace with the Red Wings.
In the third period, Buffalo got off to a slow start, having trouble clearing the defensive zone, and the Red Wings put up the pressure, trying to put the game away.
A little under seven minutes left in the third period, the Sabres started to push back, looking for the equalizing goal, and their persistence pays off. With 4:14 left to go in the third, Sam Reinhart took a shot from far out, and Ryan O’Reilly deflected the shot enough for the puck to squeak through Petr Mrzaek for the game-tying goal.
But the Sabres did not stop there, as just a minute later, Mike Weber’s shot from the point would hit a body on the way, and the bouncing puck would find the stick of Johan Larsson. Larsson buried the rebound to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead with just 3:13 left to go in regulation.
The Red Wings would come back and try to tie the game, but some missed opportunities, and some great stops by Johnson would help the Sabres preserve the 2-1 victory.
It was Buffalo’s first regulation win in Detroit since March 6, 1994, when the Sabres beat the Red Wings 3-2.
Now time to look back at what the main highlights of this game:
- Make it eight for Rhino
Heading into Monday’s game, Ryan O’Reilly was riding a seven game point streak with three goals and seven assists in that span.
For a majority of the game, O’Reilly got some quality chances to get the Sabres on the board, but Mrazek played strong to start out.
Then, with 4:14 to go in the game, this happened:
ROR goal pic.twitter.com/YSRQ1khxyt
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 15, 2015
Make it eight straight games for O’Reilly with a point, and give him now eleven goals on the season.
O’Reilly continues to lead the Sabres in goals, eleven, and in points, 28, in all 31 games played this season. O’Reilly also leads the Sabres for forwards with average ice-time, averaging 21:52 of total ice-time.
There is no question, O’Reilly has been Buffalo’s best player this season, and he will continue to be a factor for this team for years to come.
Look out, Patrick Kane, here comes Rhino.
- Larsson finally gets a goal, and it is a big one
It was a long goalless drought for Johan Larsson, as he had not scored a goal since April 6 of last season. That is 30 games without a goal, which 28 of those games were to start the 2015-16 season.
Sure it was a relief for Larsson to finally put home his first goal of the year, but for him, he was certainly happy to get the gorilla off his back.
Larsson goal, 2-1 Sabres pic.twitter.com/VFnih95WrX
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 15, 2015
More importantly, his goal would stand as the game-winning goal for Buffalo. His goal was also his first career game-winning goal in the National Hockey League.
Maybe this goal will get a fire lit under Larsson’s belly, and maybe he can get his game back up to the pace he was playing at the end of the season. Many opposing teams say they do not like playing against Larsson because he is so tough to play against, and maybe this will get him back to that type of player.
- Treinta y uno
In the absence of Robin Lehner, both Chad Johnson and Linus Ullmark have played remarkably in net for the Sabres.
As for Johnson, it was a rough go for him on the road trip through Western Canada, but he rebounded nicely with a big performance against the Red Wings. Johnson turning aside 32 of 33 Detroit shots, and was positionally solid while not giving up too many juicy rebounds.
In the later stages of the third period, the Red Wings threw the puck at him relentlessly, but Johnson was up for the test. He stopped all four shots he faced in the final two minutes of play, including this incredible save on Gustav Nyqvist with 18-seconds left in the game.
Fair to say, Johnson will give up the net to Lehner when he returns to the lineup and Ullmark will go back to the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League. But until Lehner returns, the Sabres should have full confidence in both goalies down this upcoming stretch of games.
- Sabres fan out the red-hot Red Wings
Coming into Monday’s game at home, the Red Wings had won nine of its last 13 games, and had gotten at least a point in all of those 13 games. Detroit was just five points outside of the Montréal Canadiens for first in the Atlantic Division, looking to close the gap to three.
For at least 15-minutes, the Red Wings thought they were going to get within three, but not so fast.
Now, the Red Wings still trail the Canadiens by five points, and have its first regulation loss since November 14 against the Boston Bruins.
- Home Sweet Home
The Sabres had just played six of its past eight games on the road, and the team had traveled quite extensively around the country. In that stretch, Buffalo went 4-3-1, and have won its past two games.
Up next is a three game home-stand against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, and the Stanley Cup Champion, Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. Buffalo will close out the month of December playing five of the last seven games on home ice.
It will feel good to be home.