Quick Hits: Sabres at Penguins

Sabres-Penguins


The Buffalo Sabres closed out the second half of a back-to-back series on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins at the Consol Energy Center.

On Monday, the Sabres were out-played for a majority of its game with the Detroit Red Wings, and would fall to the Red Wings at the Joe Louis Arena, 3-2. The Sabres fell behind 3-0 late in the third period, but Buffalo made a game of it late with goals from Zemgus Girgensons and Samson Reinhart to make it a hockey game. However, the Sabres could not get the game-tying goal with a minute and a half left in the game.

On Monday night, Evander Kane left the game in the second period with a hand injury and did not return. He would sit out of Tuesday’s action, and is considered day-to-day according to head coach Dan Bylsma.

With Kane out, Cal O’Reilly would re-enter the lineup after sitting the past two games as a healthy scratch.

In addition, Jack Eichel would move up to center the top line with Ryan O’Reilly moving to the wing and Reinhart playing on the right side.

As for the Penguins, they came in to Tuesday’s game off an overtime win on Sunday against the New York Rangers on the road. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner in the extra-frame with just 30-seconds left to go, as he re-directed a shot from Kris Letang to beat Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist.

The Penguins were looking to gain two points in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while the Sabres were officially eliminated from playoff contention a couple of days ago.

Chad Johnson would get his sixth consecutive start in between the pipes, while Matt Murray would start in goal for Pittsburgh.

The Sabres would get off to the fast start in this game as Matt Moulson would get the Sabres on the board first with a powerplay goal at the 9:26 mark of the first period. Johan Larsson would just throw the puck towards the goal in the last 20-seconds of the man-advantage, and the rebound would find the stick of Matt Moulson. Moulson would put a backhander on goal, and would score his sixth goal of the season. Casey Nelson would get the other assist for the Sabres along with Larsson.

Four minutes later, Josh Gorges would get a penalty for holding, sending the Penguins to the powerplay. On the penalty kill, O’Reilly made a nice play by breaking up a Penguins pass, and would move the puck out of the zone. O’Reilly would find David Legwand with space, and Legwand would throw a backhand shot on goal. The puck would go through the five-hole of Murray and too the goal line, but the Penguins cleared if off the line but not out of the crease. O’Reilly comes back in to the play, and buries the loose change for his 18th goal of the season.

As the period was close to winding down, Chris Kunitz and Rasmus Ristolainen get minor penalties for roughing, and the game would see some 4-on-4 action.

Off the next faceoff, the O’Reilly would find Jake McCabe streaking to the net from the point all alone. McCabe would take a perfect pass from O’Reilly, get Murray down early, and put home his fourth goal of the season. Zach Bogosian would end up with the other assist on the play, and Eichel should have gotten a third assist for winning the faceoff.

The period would end with the Sabres up 3-0, but being out-shot by the Penguins by the total of 19-to-8.

After the Sabres dominated the first period, the Penguins bounced back with a vengeance in the second period.

Just 1:28 into the second, Ben Lovejoy converted on a nice cross-ice pass from Brian Rust for his fourth goal of the season, and to put the Penguins on the board.

About four and a half minutes later, Sidney Crosby, from the seat of his pants, finds Conor Sheary and he moved into a scoring position. Sheary would then put a shot past Johnson for his sixth goal of the season, and the lead for Buffalo was just down to one.

The score would remain 3-2 until the late stages of the second when the Sabres would get a powerplay off an Eric Fehr tripping penalty.

However, the Sabres would give up, not one, but two shorthanded goal in a span of 24-seconds.

First, after a bad pass from Eichel, Matt Cullen was sprung on a 2-on-1 attempt with Tomas Kuhnhackl. Cullen would feed a perfect pass across the ice to Kuhnhackl, and he put home is fourth goal of the year to tie the game.

Then, Johnson tried coming out of the net to play the puck but gave the puck away in behind the net to Carl Hagelin. Hagelin would find Nick Bonino all alone in front of the net for an easy tap-in goal to give the Penguins the 4-3 lead.

The second period for the Sabres would see them getting out-shot by a total of 14-4, out-chanced 26-10, and out-scored 4-0.

However, the Penguins would give Buffalo a chance to tie the game early in the third period when Lovejoy took a holding call just 26-seconds in.

With about a dozen seconds left in the man-advantage, Larsson was able to find Bogosian across the ice for another powerplay goal on the evening. For Bogosian, it was his seventh goal of the season and his second point of the game. Larsson and Nelson both also getting their second points of the game on the powerplay goal.

The game would remain tied at four for the remainder of the period, and the game would need overtime.

Both teams would get their chances in overtime, including a glorious chance from Eichel in the dying seconds of the period. Eichel would go in all alone on Murray, but Eichel could not slip the puck through the five-hole of the Penguins netminder.

The contest would end up going to a shootout, where the Penguins would get goals from Letang and Phil Kessel to earn the extra point and the 5-4 win.

Now the quick hits:

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    • Droughts ending everywhere

The first period was all about droughts ending for Sabres players in terms of goal scoring.

First, it was Moulson scoring his first goal in 18 games and his sixth goal of the season. The last goal Moulson scored was back on February 16 when the Sabres took on the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa.

Then, Ryan O’Reilly broke a long streak of his own with his goal. O’Reilly’s goal was his 18th goal of the season, and it was his first goal in 22 games. In that span, O’Reilly continued to produce offensively with 18 assists, but was not finding the back of the net on his own. His last goal came back on January 8 when the Sabres were in Chicago to play the Blackhawks.

And lastly, McCabe broke the longest streak of the three players who scored in the first period. McCabe’s goal was his fourth goal of the season, and he scored his first goal since December 17 against the Anaheim Ducks. That was a 41-game stretch that was snapped on Tuesday night.

With five games left in the season now, breaking these slumps could help some major offensive weapons find a hot streak heading down the stretch. Better late than never, right?

    • Strong 1st period, collapse in 2nd

The Sabres after the first period:

Feeling good

The Sabres after the second period

Shocked

The second period was abysmal for the Sabres after a first period of three goals on nine shots.

The Sabres looked like they sat back too much against a Penguins team that, even without Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, have Crosby, Kunitz, Letang, and some other very gifted offensive playmakers and goal scorers.

Buffalo just made some bad passes, dumb decisions with the puck, and gave up two shorthanded goals in a matter of seconds. Including this blunder from Johnson in net…

It does not get much worse than that.

    • Nelson adjusting well

A week ago, no one knew who Casey Nelson was when general manager Tim Murray signed the 23-year old college free agent to an entry-level contract.

A week later, Nelson has four points in his first three NHL games, and has shown that he has the potential to compete at an NHL level every single night he steps onto the ice.

For Nelson, he is the first Sabres defenseman to record points in his first three NHL games since Calle Johansson in the 1987-88 season.

Nelson has shown that he is an exceptional skater with strong and powerful strides. His puck movement has been pretty good, and does not rush to get a quality shot on goal. Nelson also is smart on the ice, and does not panic with the puck when he feels the pressure.

One area he may need to work on this season is his size, as he could bulk up on his 6′ 2″ frame to be even tougher to play against. Nelson may play a decent strength game, but it could be even better if he puts on some muscle.

In the end, Murray may have found a gem in Nelson on the blue line. Next season, Nelson may have a great chance to land a permanent spot on the Sabres roster.

    • Shootouts still suck

The Sabres continue to struggle in the shootout this season, as now they are 2-7 in the shootout this year. In addition, the Sabres only have four goals in the shootout on 27 attempts, which is a league low in the NHL for shooting-percentage in the shootout at 14.8-percent.

However, the NHL just needs to abolish the shootout overall. Make the first five-minutes of overtime 4-on-4, and if that cannot solve anything, play the overtime 3-on-3 until someone scores.

As for the shootout, send it on a rocket to the sun, and then shoot a nuke to the sun just for good measure.

Explosion

Written by Brayton Wilson

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