Published by hockeybuzz.com, 12-17-2016
Win one game and it's simply a win. Win another and it's two in a row. Win a third and now we're talkin' streak.
That's what the Buffalo Sabres are looking at tonight. For the second time this month the Sabres are looking to turn two wins in a row into a three-game winning streak. It's something they've accomplished only once so far this season. Back in late October/Early November they managed to string three in a row before losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 at Key Bank Center.
Things could be a whole lot different right now if it weren't for some dominant play strewn between timely goals and fortuitous bounces as Buffalo's been unable to put together a complete game. Against the LA Kings they sleep-walked through the first half of the game before waking up with a vengeance scoring four unanswered goals in just over six minutes to take a 4-2 lead. Last night vs. the NY Islanders, a team that had just went toe-to-toe with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sabres were rested, the Islanders were not.
The Sabres went into the third period down a goal and looked scatter-brained for the opening few minutes which included an early powerplay. Even on that the first PP unit looked pretty bad and the second unit not much better. But with Evander Kane forcing the issue and getting the puck to the net, a rebound popped out to Matt Moulson who sent a cross-ice pass that banked in off of Isles d-man Thomas Hickey and into the net with :03 seconds left in the powerplay.
Buffalo would pressure from there on in but it wasn't until Rasmus Ristolainen scored :42 seconds into overtime that the Sabres could finally put this one away. Ristolainen was a study in contrast last night. He sent a shot pass to Johan Larsson for Buffalo's first goal and his goal in overtime was beautiful, however, he tried some fancy passing in his own end that lead to Islander scoring chances which included putting one right on the stick of John Tavares. All-in-all Ristolainen played a stellar game but we're pretty sure head coach Dan Bylsma and his staff will mention those gaffes.
Props to goalie Robin Lehner who kept the team in the game all night with some nice saves. Lehner stopped 33 of 35 shots while on the way to his seventh victory of the season. He's sporting a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
Regardless of their cliff-dancing, the Sabres are winning, even when they probably shouldn't. "We definitely weren't at our best tonight,"said forward Kyle Okposo post-game to the gathered media. "You're going to have some different games, some games where you're not at your best and you've got to find a way to win those.That's the sign of a good team, what good teams do. You're going to have some off nights.
"Find a way to win that game."
Okposo was instrumental in both of the Sabres wins. Against the Kings on Tuesday he had three assists in the 6-3 Sabres win including the primary one on Jack Eichel's eventual game-winner. He also set up the game-winner in overtime last night as he pulled the d-coverage over to him and sent a perfect feed to Ristolainen in the slot. It Okposo's first game against his former team since signing with Buffalo in the off season.
The Sabres are making things difficult on themselves by allowing the first goal of the game. They're 8-1-5 when scoring first, 6-0-3 when leading after the first period. However they're 3-10-1 when the opposition scores first, 2-7-0 when trailing after one period according to Sabres PR. Granted, when Eichel was out of the line up, along with a revolving door of other forwards, the team couldn't score, but even with him back and the team averaging 3.25 goals/game since, you don't want to dance on that ledge too often.
Buffalo is looking to make it three in a row at Carolina tonight where the Hurricanes have been tough at home as of late. After a 4-2 loss on November 10 vs. Anaheim, the 'Canes rattled off seven in a row at PNC Arena before losing in overtime last night to the Washington Capitals. Carolina has 31 points which places them sixth in the Metro Division and 11th in the conference, one point ahead of Buffalo who has a game in hand.
The Sabres swept the season series last year. They beat the 'Canes at home 4-1 and 3-2 in OT while also winning 3-2 in Carolina. Eichel had three goals last season against Carolina including this doozy in overtime off of a rainbow feed from Evander Kane with seconds left.
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