FINAL: TAM 2-1 BUF (SO 2-0)
SHOTS: BUF: 32 TAM: 32
POWER PLAY: BUF 1/3 TAM 0/2
HITS: BUF: 29 TAM: 17
BLOCKED SHOTS: BUF: 13 TAM: 9
1st Period: BUF(PP) Ryan O’Reilly, Assist: Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack Eichel
2nd Period: TB: Johnson, Assist: Hedman, Kucherov
The Sabres controlled much of the play in the first two minutes. Evander Kane got the teams first scoring chance with a wrister from the slot. Buffalo routinely challenged Tampa goaltender Vasilevskiy early on. The netminder looked shaky and bobbled his first two shots faced. About four minutes into the 1st the Sabres 4th line starred in an abysmal comedy of errors as Deslaurier mishandled a puck, Girgensons took a spill to his keester and finally D-Lo whiffing on a check. Luckily, Eichel and Reinhart would come out and restore hope immediately after with a strong series. The Lightning would get their first scoring chance with a Jason Garrison slap shot that Lehner kicked to the board. Eichel, Foligno and Reinhart showed incredible hustle to loose pucks and did a good job pushing Tampa’s defense to its limits.
Foligno would fire a shot from the face off circle about 12 minutes into the 1st. This created a glorious rebound opportunity that Jack took several swipes at before the puck was cleared. Dmitry Kulikov took a mean shot behind the Sabres goal and was slow to get up. This coincided with Franson leveling his man in the same area a few feet away. Kulikov was slow to the bench. The Eichel line would once more get a scoring chance when Vasilevskiy was forced to deny a puck down low. It’s hard to put into words how great this line played in the first 20. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov would take a hooking call with 20 seconds remaining in the 1st. 9 seconds into the power play Rasmus Ristolainen found O’Reilly for the game’s first goal. Eichel’s point streak is extended to 9 games with an assist on the goal. Fantastic, dominant period by Buffalo.
The Sabres began the 2nd period without Dmitry Kulikov. Franson would step up and deny Vlad Namestnikov of a breakaway opportunity early. Tampa would recover quickly with a Tyler Johnson deflection to tie the game. This allowed the Lightning to seize the momentum, blitzing Lehner with multiple chances. Girgensons would be hauled down-this time by Alex Killorn- and the Sabres went to the power play 7 minutes into the period. Gionta would take an innocent looking bump to the shoulder from a Tampa player which caused the captain to fold over and head to the bench. Rodrigues was placed on the Eichel and Reinhart line and created a 2 on 1 with Sam but didn’t take the shot and instead turned it over on a pass attempt. At 5:40 of the period Lehner would make a beautiful cross crease save that hit him right in the crest. A minute later Eichel would dazzle with several jukes and jives past the Lightning D but to no avail. Foligno would level Adam Erne at center with about a minute to go. Tyler Johnson would be denied by Lehner of a 2nd goal with 46 seconds remaining in the period. The 2nd period blues strike again as Tampa controls play overall and we go to the 3rd tied at a goal apiece.
Evander Kane had another strong game and he carried his play into the 3rd. The winger launched a shot from O’Reilly high and wide of the Tampa cage. Following this was a chaotic sequence that saw Robin rob the Lightning blind before a Sabres chance where Eichel found D-Lo who failed to bury the beautiful scoring chance.
With 15:45 remaining Eichel was hounded at the red line when pursuing a loose puck. This was of course another missed call. Buffalo would take their first penalty of the game with 14 minutes left for tripping. Evan Rodrigues would play a significant role in killing the penalty whilst Girgensons stood tall without his stick. Lehner would once more make a brilliant stop as the PP ended. The Sabres have now killed 19 of the last 20 penalties they’ve faced. O’Reilly would later find Kane from behind the goal but Vasilevskiy made another outstanding save, this time with the glove while on his stomach. This kids the real deal.
Sam Reinhart would send an errant pass to the front of the net that wound up on the tape of Jonathan Drouin allowing an odd man rush that was masterfully played by Ristolainen. Kane would then take the puck after the stoppage end to end and come close to scoring a highlight goal with about 6 minutes to go, firing the puck wide to keep us tied at 1. Ristolainen nearly decapitated Drouin at center ice but wisely ducked out of the way. As time drained Eichel and Risto got into some questionable shoving matches with the Lighting. Marcus Foligno would be tackled by Stralman with 50 second shot left, sending the Sabres to the power play. Ristolainen denies a Lightning short handed chance at the end of regulation as we go to Overtime.
The Sabres begin the extra period with Eichel, ROR, Reinhart and Ristolainen as we begin 4 on 3 play. Buffalo would start with a full head of steam off the draw as Eichel chased a puck following the drop. The Sabres get a chance to win when Reinhart receives a pass cross crease but the puck hops off his stick. The penalty ends, but Tampa quickly gets a power play of their own when Girgensons rips the stick from a Lightning player. Lehner proceeds to make another great save on a Kucherov slap shot with :34 remaining on the man advantage. The Sabres kill the penalty once more and we go to 3 on 3 with :46 to go. Eichel is then mauled by Hedman on a break and just barely avoids the post. No penalty. We go to the shootout as fans reign boos on the officials.
This is the Sabres first shootout since December 20th. They are 1-5 this year in the tie-breaker. Buffalo’s Reinhart is up first and is denied by Vasilevskiy. Brayden Point is up for Tampa and scores. Eichel shoots 2nd and is stopped. Nikita Kucherov shoots 2nd for the Lightning and pulls some trickery on Lehner. The puck drifts 5-hole and in, the Lightning win 2-1 as the Sabres shootout demons continue to haunt them.
Buffalo faces Pittsburgh tomorrow at 5.