Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
I wonder how many Sabres fans said, "Finally!" when Evander Kane sent a rocket past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier. It was an exasperating game for the Sabres until that goal tied the game at one-all with less than five minutes to play. Kane's post-goal celebration also had "Finally!" written all over it as he netted his first goal of the season, first as a Buffalo Sabre.
Kudos to Zemgus Girgensons on that play as he went up the boards and dislodged the puck from Toronto's Nadzim Kadri. Girgensons fell the play but he forced Kadri into a turnover. His clearing pass went right to Kane's stick and he wasted no time sending it home. Although he didn't get an assist on the play, Girgensons may have caught coach Dan Bylsma's eye enough to get net-front opportunities on the top-line.
Bylsma was at his line-juggling best in the third period as both lines prior to the goal worked Toronto hard. Tyler Ennis who was with Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel had a glorious opportunity foiled by Bernier then the line of Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta and Johan Larsson put intense pressure on the Leafs. This may have been Larsson's best game this year. He started out on a checking line with Nic Deslauriers and Marcus Foligno and after making life miserable for the Leafs, Bylsma bumped Larsson up a notch.
Sabres/Leafs games are always good with plenty of energy and action but the hometown Buffalo fans got themselves an additional treat last night as the game went to overtime with the NHL's new 3-on-3 format. The Sabres started out with O'Reilly, Kane and Josh Gorges and within :40 seconds Kane stole the puck in the Buffalo zone and headed up ice with O'Reilly on a 2-on-1 but Reimer came up with the stop on Kane's wrister.
The other combo's for Buffalo:
15, 63, 55
28, 12, 29
90, 9, 46
15, 63, 55
28, 9, 4
15, 990, 55
For all the open ice, the teams combined for only four shots on goal in the five-minute extra frame.
The best opportunity in OT went to the Leafs' Kadri. He and James van Riemsdyk had a 2-on-1 between the circles and he found himself in all alone on Sabres goalie Chad Johnson. Kadri went backhand/forehand but Johnson stopped him.
Both Reimer, who was the game's third star, and Johnson played exceptionally well allowing a total of two goals on a combined 59 shots. The Sabres put 35 on Reimer with only the Kane goal getting by him.
This is the second strong game by Buffalo and they seem to be finding themselves. Bylsma's got himself a team of dogged puck-hounds with speed and quickness, and he's got himself some skill as well. The Kane goal went far side from a somewhat difficult angle and he ripped it even though the puck was on end. Eichel did the same thing only from a more difficult angle. Ennis and O'Reilly have legs and skill as well.
Puck-hounds with speed, quickness and skill.
Sounds like a winner to me.
--Not sure what the goal-frame is made of, but the Sabres need to look into a more traditional pipe. Deslauriers ripped one off of the post early on and instead of a "ping" we got a muffled "clank." In my opinion, there's nothing like the unmistakable sound of a goal-post that's rung by a blistering shot. It's a sound that cuts through everything and brings out extreme emotion dependent upon who's side your on.
--The Leafs Dion Phaneuf, who at one time was dubbed "Princess Phaneuf" by former Buffalo Sabres tough-guy, John Scott, tried to stand up a barreling Kane at the Toronto blueline, but Kane ran over him--with a little help from his stick. Phaneuf rose from the ice with a bloody lip after Kane got his hands high and his stick wrecked the d-man. No penalty was called, much to the dismay of Phaneuf and Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. The firey Phaneuf would later be called for a high-sticking penalty on Ennis a mere seconds after the Sabres tied the score. He was chirpin' all the way to the penalty box.
--Although defenseman Mark Pysyk had some hair-raising moments, he and d-partner Jake McCabe really have it going on. It looks as if they've been playing together for years, which is somewhat true. When Pysyk was sent to Rochester over the course of the previous two seasons much of his time was spent on the ice with McCabe playing top-minutes. And with McCabe playing as well as he has, that duo will probably remain intackt when Zach Bogosian returns to the lineup.
--Back in April when Eichel's Boston University Terriers were battling the Providence Friars for the National Championship, the freshman center pulled off a move from center ice that lead to a goal by his linemate. In a split second Eichel chipped the draw to himself and went flying towards the net. Although Sabres d-prospect Anthony Florentino was able to get a stick on Eichel in the slot, the puck went to Eichel's winger Danny O'Regan who sent it home. Here's the link. )You can watch Florentino's goal and Eichel's move in the first minute of the highlights.)
We saw Eichel do the same thing last night with 1:20 left in the second period. Linemates Ennis and Kane were caught a little off guard as Eichel went in 1-on-2 but he still managed to get a good shot off.
--From the shootout, O'Reilly is now 10 for 24 after he was stopped last night; Ennis clanked one past Bernier of the left post, he's now 15 for 40; Eichel's nicked the right post in his first shootout attempt; Kane is now 3 for 17 after he lost control of the puck in tight; Moulson' game-winning shootout goal was the seventh of his career and is now 16 for 38.