Sabres sneak past Devils.
Photo Credit: Sara Schmidle/ NHL.com
Buffalo N.Y.--The Buffalo Sabres took their 2nd win in 3 games as they edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a shootout. In the last 3 games, the Sabres had been able to obtain 5 of a possible 6 points, with a win this afternoon a win versus the New York Rangers, and an overtime loss to the Rangers on Thursday. This pushed the Sabres to leapfrog the Pittsburgh Penguins in the standing. They now sit in the 4th slot with 10 points overall.
The Sabres and Devils both got off to a slow start as the first period brought no action on the scoresheet. however, about halfway through the period, Devil Jasper Bratt entered the Sabres' zone and drew two penalties on Sabres Eric Staal for slashing and Brandon Montour for tripping. The Sabres were then able to kill off the entire two-minute 5-on-3 man advantage of the Devils, while not allowing any shots on goal. This was a high point for the Buffalo penalty kill as they eventually went 4 for 5. Head Coach Ralph Kruger commented post-game, "They did a great job getting in the shot lanes and closing down the center of the ice not allowing them (the Devils) to move the puck through the middle." He went on to give the unit high praise and even touching on the cohesion of Curtis Lazar, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Jake McCabe, who all played the majority of the kill.
The second period started the same as the first with New Jersey taking two penalties in the first five minutes. Nothing would come for these opportunities for the Sabres as they were having zone entry and puck possession problems during both opportunities. However, the Sabres would be the first team to crack the stalemate as Eric Staal put the first goal on the board halfway through the period. The Devils would answer late in the period with Ty Smith bombing on in from the point on the powerplay. taking a 1-1 tie to the room.
The third brought as much need change of pace for the game as Andreas Johnsson came out and netted an early goal for the Devils for a 2-1 lead. Less than a minute late Tobias Rieder responded for his 2 goals in two games. Victor Olofsson also got in on the actions as he scored on a powerplay from the top of the circle with assists going to Rasmus Dahlin and Taylor Hall. One player who does not get credit for assists because he never touched the puck but deserves some credit on the goal is defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen as 6'4" 221 pounds is a very hard person for Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood as the Sabres defenseman screened Wedgewood on the entire play, due to his play Wedgewood never even saw that puck pass his shoulder on the way to the back of the net. The Devils would counter with Janne Kuokkanen putting his shot past Linus Ullmark to tie the game at 3.
The Overtime period for the Sabres was plagued with the same problems as the powerplay, as they were not able to gain proper puck possession and had issues entering the offensive zone. Halfway through the five minute period 2019 1st overall draft pick Jack Hughes knocked a backhand shot off the post for the Devils. 65 minutes of play was not enough to solve the issues on the ice.
Ralph Kruger had an interesting lineup choice for the shootout, he started with team captain Jack Eichel who made a forehand backhand move then put the puck off the post and in the net giving the Sabres the lead. The second shooter for the Sabres was defenseman Rasmus Dahlin who has not had an opportunity since early last season, faked the slapshot but was shut down by Wedgewood. Victor Olofsson would be the final shooter for the Sabres and was also shut down by Wedgewood. Linus Ullmark for the Sabres would stop all three of New Jersey's shooters leading the Sabres to a 4-3 victory.
As for milestones in this game, the biggest actually coming from former Sabre player and coach Lindy Ruff who just the game before recorded his 1500th NHL game coached. Lindy Ruff played for the Sabres for 10 years between 1979-1989, playing 608 games for the Sabres recording 102 goals, 183 assists totaling 285 points. Ruff also recorded 1128 penalty minutes and is the best know for fighting Islander's goaltender Billy Smith in teh 1980 playoffs. As for his coaching career, he coached the Sabres for 15 years from 1997-2013. he coached 1165 games with the Sabres recording a team record 571 wins, Ruff was also the longest-reigning Sabres coach. As for team awards, he led the Sabres to a Prince of Wales Cup after winning the Eastern Conference in 1999 but losing in teh Stanley Cup finals to the Dallas Stars in the infamous "No-Goal" game. He led the team to three more conference final games, along with the President's Trophy in 2006-07 with the league's best regular-season record. He totaled 8 post-season appearances as a coach for the Sabres and won the Jack Adams Award in 2005-06 the league's best coach. Ruff would go on to be the head coach of the Dallas Stars before becoming an assistant coach for the Rangers and then being hired in New Jersey as a head coach again.
The Sabres will be back in action tomorrow afternoon for another matinee against the Devils.