Final Score: 4-3 (SO)
Buffalo is back in the win column, as they defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shootout Sunday afternoon. In a true game of back and forth, the teams exchanged the lead several times, with Jack Eichel burying the only goal in the shootout.
Buffalo peppered Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanacek with 48 shots in regulation and overtime, but weren’t able to register an even strength tally. Nevertheless, the Sabres powerplay picked up the slack, going 3-for-5 on the afternoon. Buffalo spent the majority of the game either tied or down a goal, but pulled ahead midway through the third period on a rocket of a shot from Eric Staal, pushing the score to 3-2. The lead was short lived, as Nicklas Backstrom evened it up at 3 just two minutes later.
Overtime was quite lively, as both teams exchanged quality chances. However, both Vanecek and Ullmark stood on their heads. In the shootout, Ullmark was able to stop Carlson, Oshie, and Backstrom, as the Sabres were able to take three out of a possible four points against a depleted Capitals team.
⦁ The Sabres’ Powerplay: After struggling to put the puck in the net with the man advantage this season, Buffalo exploded with three powerplay goals this afternoon. Colin Miller, Victor Olofsson, and Eric Staal had the goals for the Sabres PP.
⦁ Eric Staal: Staal had arguably his best game to date as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, tallying a powerplay goal in 15:50 of ice time. He’s definitely seemed to settle into his role as a middle six center as of late, and is generating an adequate amount of chances. It’s early, but Staal is looking good.
⦁ 5v5 Scoring: If the Sabres are planning on making any sort of noise in the East Division this season, they HAVE to improve their 5v5 scoring. It’s not a glaring concern at the moment, however, they cannot let themselves become complacent. The luck will soon come for Buffalo, as they’ve had countless chances at even strength, but they’ve been arguably the league’s most unlucky team thus far. More on that later.
⦁ The Sabres Penalty Kill: Buffalo seems to sort of “live by the sword, die by the sword” so far this season when it comes to special teams. The Sabres allowed 2 powerplay goals to Washington on 3 attempts this afternoon, moving them to an alarming 66.7% on the PK, which slots them at 26th in the NHL. Coach Ralph Krueger needs to find a solution to the Sabres PK struggles, and fast.
⦁ After a shaky performance in regulation, Linus Ullmark shined bright in overtime and the shootout to earn his first victory of the season. Also, it was Ullmark’s first victory since the passing of his father last week.
⦁ Forwards Casey Mittelstadt and Kyle Okposo made their season debuts Sunday afternoon, with Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson sitting this contest out. Mittelstadt tallied an assist in a shade over 10 minutes of ice time, while Okposo was held pointless, skating for 13:43.
⦁ Buffalo’s secondary scoring has been filling in for the top line the last couple of games, as Hall-Eichel-Reinhart haven’t been lighting the lamp as often as they did the opening couple of games this season. Getting offence from sources like Colin Miller, Eric Staal, Riley Sheahan et al the past two games has been amazing.
⦁ Rasmus Ristolainen continued his strong start to the season, quietly bagging himself two assists, adding helpers on Eric Staal and Colin Miller’s powerplay goals. Ristolainen was also second on the team in ice time, trailing only captain Jack Eichel, as he skated 24:13 Sunday afternoon.
The Sabres have been struck with a streak of bad puck luck to start the season, as some nights they can’t seem to buy a goal when they need it. It’s certainly not for a lack of shooting, as Buffalo is currently 3rd in the league in Shots/Game, with 34.8. Even when Buffalo can beat the opposing goaltender cleanly, either a post or a crossbar seem to be in the way. Eventually, and hopefully as soon as possible, Buffalo will finally get some bounces to go their way, as they are definitely putting in the effort. Look for that to change versus New York Tuesday night, as it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of a Rangers squad who has struggled mightily out of the gate.
Buffalo has Monday night off, as they return home to begin a four-game homestand beginning Tuesday Night, versus the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Sabres will get their first look at 2020 1st overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, who’s yet to register a point in 4 GP this season. Game time for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Rangers is scheduled for 7pm EST.