Final Score: 3-2 Rangers (OT)
A slow, sloppy start turned into most of the game Thursday evening as the Sabres fell to the New York Rangers, 3-2 in overtime. Buffalo seemed to be unengaged for the first 40 minutes, as the Rangers were able to freely move the puck and sustain offensive pressure from the first drop of the puck.
After Eichel’s tally late in the first period, on a beautiful pass from Sam Reinhart, Buffalo was held scoreless through the second. Then, on a powerplay 5 minutes into the 3rd period, Sam Reinhart tucked home his third of the season off a tic-tac-toe play from Taylor Hall and Victor Olofsson.
In overtime, Buffalo had a 2-on-1 early with Eichel and Rasmus Ristolainen, but failed to muster a shot. Shortly after, Alexis Lafreniere capitalized on a neutral zone turnover by Eichel and buried the game winner, sending the Rangers back to NYC with 2 points.
⦁ Linus Ullmark: Sabres G Linus Ullmark played one incredible game Thursday night, his third start in a row. He stopped 36 of 39 shots, including a few Hasek-esque saves. Ullmark kept Buffalo in the contest pretty much all night, but the team couldn’t pull through in OT.
⦁ Sam Reinhart: Sam Reinhart continued his hot start to the 2020/21 season Thursday evening, adding another goal and assist to his point total. Thus far, Reinhart has 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points through 8 games. Look for Reinhart’s hot streak to continue this weekend against the Devils, especially if Buffalo can keep drawing penalties like they have all season.
⦁ Strong Starts: Buffalo started the game Thursday night sort of sloppy. Play was not up to snuff in the defensive zone, and there were many oppurtunities for the Rangers. Ultimately, it led to a goal from Ryan Strome. Sloppy starts aren’t ideal as they tend to put you in an early hole.
⦁ Power Play Consistency: Buffalo’s powerplay this season has definitely been hot, or not. When they’re hot, they’re excellent with their zone entries, they can snap the puck around and pick out the perfect moment to shoot and score. When they’re not, it’s quite difficult to generate anything.
⦁ Jack Eichel potted his second goal of the season off a beautful feed from Sam Reinhart with 21 seconds remaining in the first period.
⦁ Rangers forward and 2020 1st overall pick Alexis Lafreniere scored his first NHL goal this evening, clinching the game for the Rangers in OT. It was also Lafreniere’s first career NHL point.
⦁ At times in this contest, Buffalo seemed to be watching the puck more often than focusing on their tasks in each zone. With a team as skilled as the Rangers, you have to be aware of where players like Panarin and Zibanejad are at all times. Letting them see any open ice in the offensive zone can be deadly.
⦁ With Thursday’s OT loss, Buffalo was able to grab 3 out of a possible 4 points versus the Rangers. Looking forward, Buffalo has a good oppurtunity to secure some much needed points, with two game sets versus the Devils and Islanders ahead on the schedule.
⦁ The Sabres players acknowledged their uncharacteristic play/Ullmark’s strong game, as seen in Sam Reinhart’s post game interview:
Buffalo didn’t seem to play a solid 60 minutes this evening, as the Rangers seemed to have the jump on them for the first two periods. New York was able to generate and sustain quite a bit of offensive zone chances, and Linus Ullmark was forced to make some jaw dropping saves, especially in the third. If the Sabres want to keep pace with the heavyweights in the East Division, they’ll have to consistently put in 60 minutes every game.
Buffalo will be back on the ice Saturday afternoon as they continue a four game homestand, this time welcoming the New Jersey Devils to KeyBank Center. Puck drop is slated for 1PM EST. New Jersey boasts a 3-2-1 record coming into Saturday’s contest, coming off a two game series versus the Flyers. Buffalo should look to continue drawing penalties as they’ve been excellent at doing so the past few games, and hopefully capitalize on as many chances as possible. The Devils have the 30th ranked PK in the NHL, operating at a 65.2% effectiveness. Look for the Sabres to exploit that to their benefit Saturday