Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals Game Recap 1/22/2021

Final Score: BUF 3 WSH 4 (SO)

The Buffalo Sabres entered Friday night’s game looking for a win to cut into their 1-3-0 record against Capitals team missing key players. With future Hall of Famer Alexander Ovechkin, number one center Evgeny Kuznetsov, starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov and top-four defenseman Dimitry Kulikov all out, the Sabres have a prime opportunity to grab two points.

Eric Staal opened the scoring with his first as a Sabre off a feed from Victor Olofsson after stripping Zdeno Chara of the puck.

“It’s been ongoing here for a couple games just trying to learn some tendencies with Olli (Olofsson) and learn some spots I can find myself or vice versa. It hasn’t been the easiest so far, I don’t think I’ve been at my best yet, but I’m working on it and on that play, you tip your hat. That’s a great move to battle for the puck and give me one of those.”

Eric Staal on Olofsson’s effort on his first goal as a Sabre

Nicklas Backstorm followed up with a goal of his own with under five minutes to play in the first period to make it 1-1.

Nic Dowd tacked on another goal with under five minutes gone in the second period made it 2-1 Captials.

Sabres rookie Dylan Cozens scored his first NHL goal with a shot in the top left corner off the rush to bring the game to even at 2-2.

It’s something I’ve dreamed about my whole life and to finally put on in the back of the net, it’s exciting.

Dylan Cozens on his firt NHL goal

Less than three minutes later, Jakub Vrana broke the tie to put the Capitals ahead 3-2, but 42 seconds later, Riley Sheahan nets his first as a Sabre.

The tie would remain throughout the rest of the second, third and overtime period.

The game reached a shootout, which saw all four shooters for the Sabres miss. Eichel hit the post, Hall was stopped going five hole and Cozens took a shot that became lodged in the goalie’s midsection and dropped to the ice. In round four, John Carlson ramped a puck up the blade of Ullmark’s stick, through his five-hole and into the back of the net. To extend the shootout, Reinhart’s need to score, but ended up missing low and away.

While it’s better than an OT loss or a regulation loss, the Sabres let a winnable game slip away.

Arrow up/Arrow down:

Arrow Up:
  • Dylan Cozens: The rookie scored his first NHL goal on a beautiful shot off the rush. Cozens has been impactful in the games before his goal, but to see his first go in, look for his confidence to rise and for his game to take another step in the coming weeks.

“It’s a special moment when you see somebody with that skillset and that future with the Buffalo Sabres, you know that’s a historic moment.”

Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger on Cozen’s goal
  • High Danger Chances: The Sabres had more high danger scoring chances than their opponent again last night. The Sabres clearly dominate scoring chances in the higher danger areas between the dots. Without doing a deep dive into the luck luck the Sabres are facing, the goals will come if the Sabres keep producing scoring chances like they have in their first five games. The Sabres rank second in the NHL among teams with at least four games played in high danger scoring chances for percentage. Basically, 65.15% of the high danger scoring chances belong to Buffalo giving up only 23 high danger scoring chances while producing 43 themselves.

*According to Natural Stat Trick

  • Linus Ullmark: While it wasn’t a stellar performance, to play after what he’s gone through this week is praiseworthy. I wouldn’t consider any goal his fault, they were more defensive breakdowns and rebounds that weren’t cleared. On John Carlson’s goal in the shootout, it appeared Ullmark thought Carlson was going glove. It was a solid performance and we continue to wish the best for he and his family here and in Sweden.
Arrow Down:
  • Rasmus Dahlin: It’s still early in the season for the 20 year old, but the downward regression of Rasmus Dahlin is becoming a concern. Dahlin was himself benched in the third period, besides one shift on a powerplay, and ended the game with just 10:08 minutes of ice time. Dahlin lost positioning on Backstrom, who pounced on the rebound for his goal to tie up the game. On Vrana’s goal, he again lost his man and even though it was an unfortunate bounce, that was the tipping point. Dahlin only saw one shift for the rest of the night and his ice time Sunday is something to monitor.
  • Tage Thompson: Tage Thompson found himself on the bench for the entire third period, perpetuating the idea floating around that the fit for Tage in this lineup doesn’t mesh well with his skillset. He was given a shot on the first line with Eichel, the second line with Staal and ended up replaced by Rasmus Asplund Tuesday in Philadelphia. To be fair, Asplund only saw about seven and a half minutes of ice time, but drives home the fact Thompson is likely the first to be replaced in the lineup.
  • Sabres with snakebite: Five games into the season, Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner still have not found the back of the net. It’s certainly not from a lack of effort or skill, they’re making plays and generally playing well, but unless it translates to production, the Sabres might find themselves in a hole too steep to climb out of. In Eichel’s case, the consensus appears to be once he gets his first, the flood gates will open.

Quick Hits:

  • With Staal, Sheahan and Cozens getting their first goals as Sabres, Cody Eakin is the only player left on the active roster looking for their first as a Sabre. He’ll have another crack at it Sunday against the Capitals.
  • While Riley Sheahan was scoring his first, Zdeno Chara was busy roughing up Curtis Lazar. There was no call on the play. Later, Rasmus Ristolainen was called on a questionable holding penalty with 10 seconds left in the third period.

Looking Ahead:

The Sabres have the day of Saturday before closing out their two game series with the Capitals Sunday at 3 P.M. EST. After their Sunday afternoon game, the Sabres return to Buffalo for a couple two-game series against the Rangers and Devils.

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