Buffalo’s top line stays hot by grabbing the early lead for the Sabres, but the Panthers score the last three goals of the game to complete their comeback.
After getting embarrassed in Montreal Saturday afternoon, the Sabres had a chance at redemption on home ice when they played host to the Florida Panthers: the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers came into Buffalo 0-5 on the road, and at the time, the worst goal differential record in the NHL at -11. Still, Buffalo found a way to lose the game.
The first period started out well for Buffalo. They were clearly the better team on the ice. They were outworking the Panthers along the boards, getting more of the premier scoring opportunities, and Tyler Myers hadn’t screwed anything up yet. Less than three minutes into the game, Thomas Vanek would continue his ridiculous hot streak by netting the games first goal.
Cody Hodgson recovered a loose puck in his own zone, and sprinted up ice with Pominville. Hodgson gained the Panthers zone, and dropped the puck off for Pominville. As soon as the puck touched Pominville’s stick, he immediately fired a pass to Ehrhoff who joined the rush. Ehrhoff took a shot right on that hit Hodgson in front of the net. Hodgson pushed the puck back to JP in the slot who knew Vanek was trailing the play. Pominville gave Vanek a no look between the legs pass that Thomas buried.
This line might be the hottest in hockey. These three know where they are on the ice at all times, and if you let Vanek get an open shot off in the slot — odds are it’s finding the back of the net.
Five minutes and a couple of icing calls later, the Panthers would tie the game up.
Buffalo iced the puck twice in about ten seconds which obviously set up a face-off in their own zone. Tyler Ennis was lined up to take the draw against Jared Smithson, but got tossed out by the official. Marcus Foligno stepped up to take the face-off and Smithson won it clean. Shawn Matthias was the recipient of Smithson’s face-off win, and sniped out the far corner on Miller to tie the game.
Face-off’s have been killing Buffalo this year, but you can’t say that’s the reason why Florida tied the game up. I’m not one to say referee’s screw up games or cost goals, but the Sabres didn’t ice the puck the second time. Jochen Hecht appeared to deflect the puck into Florida’s zone, but the linesman disagreed. Another question is, how did Matthias get a shooting lane that wide open off of a draw Florida won that cleanly? Buffalo was not set up well to defend a quick shot off the draw, and didn’t even move after Smithson won the draw.
A little over five minutes after the Panthers tied the game up, Thomas Vanek would help create another goal for the Sabres.
Florida defenseman, Mike Weaver had a hard time settling a bouncing puck down in his own zone with Vanek charging right at him. Vanek wound up stealing the puck, making a nice move to get around a diving Brian Campbell, and made a nice pass to Hodgson through the crease, and Cody slammed it home to regain the lead.
Bouncing pucks continue to be a trend at First Niagara Center this season, and yet again it worked out in Buffalo’s favor. (See http://lockerroomlogic.com/2013/01/30/sabres-maple-leafs-recap-2/) Vanek was able to gain control of the puck, make a nifty move around a diving defenseman, was able to get the puck through the crease to Hodgson, and made it look easy. In my opinion, if the season ended today, Thomas Vanek is your Hart Trophy winner.
Buffalo would head to the locker room with a 2-1 lead after the first, and would extend that lead just four minutes into the second period.
The Sabres were putting on some serious pressure in Florida’s end, and did a nice job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Hodgson had the puck at the top of the left face-off circle, hit Vanek with a pass near the high slot. Vanek had the attention of every Panther on the ice when he sent a cross ice pass to Sulzer who was all alone at the point. Sulzer ripped the one-timer through traffic to extend the lead to 3-1.
Vanek had and has everyone’s attention when the puck is on his stick. He draws people out of position, and did that extremely well on Sulzer’s goal. That’s two goals in three games for Alex Sulzer.
So you’re at home, playing the worst road team in hockey, two goal lead…everything’s fine, right?
Tyler Ennis had an opportunity to extend the lead to three when he walked in all alone on a breakaway, but hesitated to make a move. Minutes later Mikhail Grigorenko had a point blank one-timer opportunity that he shot right into Jose Theodore. Just seconds after Girggy’s point blank chance, Marcus Foligno had one of his own that he completely whiffed on. The Sabres had three chances to put them up by at least three goals, and they couldn’t do it.
Just moments after Foligno’s whiff in front of the net, Florida would get an odd man rush of their own and would cash in.
Alex Sulzer got stick checked from behind by Stephen Weiss who poked the puck into the offensive zone creating a three-on-two rush. Weiss would recover the puck in Buffalo territory with Tomas Fleischmann along side him. Ehrhoff was on Weiss, and Sulzer bit on the cross ice pass fake to Fleischmann. The third man on the rush was a trailing George Parros, who was fresh coming out of the penalty box after a heavyweight tilt with John Scott. Weiss gave Parros a no look drop pass, and Parros just threw the puck at Miller, and beat him through the five-hole.
Again, the Sabres display poor puck management at the blue line in the offensive zone, and again it burns them. Sulzer didn’t do a good job protecting the puck at a crucial are of the ice. Ryan Miller deserves a little bit of the blame, but only because it was a weak shot by a grinder. Parros isn’t Malkin or Ovechkin. He’s a goon who can fight, and Miller had an opportunity to make a save. Granted Miller shouldn’t have even been in that position, but still, he needs to come up big against a weak shot.
Buffalo’s awful ”last minute of play” in any given period continued to haunt them, this time it would be the second period.
Tomas Kopecky would send a lead pass for Drew Shore who would gain the Sabres zone. Shore ripped a shot that went wide, but Shore hustled after his own rebound and chopped the puck to the slot. With Ryan Miller way out of position, Peter Mueller was right on the doorstep to jam it home.
I don’t know what it is this season, but Buffalo is by far the laziest team in the final minute of play. I’m not just saying that because of the overtime heartbreaker against Toronto. In every game this season, Buffalo plays poorly at the end of any given period. The first, second, third, overtime, you name a period and they’ve probably had a game where they struggled. Saturday it was the first period when Buffalo gave up a goal with just eight seconds left against the Canadiens, of course the Toronto game I just mentioned, and now 54 seconds left in the second period against Florida. Those are just games where there’s been goals scored at the end. The second game of the season against Toronto, Buffalo almost blew a 2-0 lead in the final two minutes and left with a 2-1 win by the skin of their teeth.
If you look at this goal, Tyler Myers is absolutely brutal. After Shore took his initial shot, he skated right around Myers, and fought through a weak stick check to get the puck in front of the net. If Myers chases Shore all the way to the boards, there’s no way Shore gets that pass through. If Myers chases Shore, he would’ve pinned him up against the boards behind the goal line, and Florida would have to go back to the drawing board to try and tie the game. Instead, Myers extended his stick, hoping that’ll scare Shore into not wanting to get the puck in front of the net to one of the, if not the hottest playing Panther on the team — Peter Mueller.
The Sabres would lose the game after Christian Ehrhoff was accused for hooking, sending the Panthers to the power play.
Jonathan Huberdeau had the puck along the far half-wall when he sent a pass down low to Kopecky. Kopecky made a nice move in front of the net, tried stuffing it through Miller, but his attempt bounced right back out conveniently for Brian Campbell. Soupy quickly fired the rebound up in the top right corner of the net to complete the comeback.
Again, Tyler Myers refused to be physical on this goal. Tomas Kopecky made a nice move in front of the net to get his shot off which created the rebound that Campbell slapped home. Myers pretty much watched Kopecky slowly spin around with the puck and get his shot off, then as Miller was making the initial save, Myers gave Kopecky a little shove. That’s not enough. Myers had plenty of time to shove Kopecky to the ice, which is allowed when you’re in the crease. Myers has five inches, and 25 pound on Kopecky. There’s no excuse as to why he was still standing in front of Miller.
With the loss, Buffalo has no dropped their sixth game in their last seven games played, and have not won a contest at First Niagara Center since their home opener against Philadelphia.
There’s no excuse for that loss. You can’t blame fatigue for losing a 3-1 lead on home ice, and you can’t expect Thomas Vanek to score and create every goal this season. Lindy Ruff needs to figure out a way to get his defensive unit playing at a more consistent level, and less of a liability (with the exception of Christian Ehrhoff). With injuries to Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr, Lindy can’t afford to scratch Myers to give him a wakeup call, and can’t really juggle the pairs up either.
For now, Buffalo will have to regroup, yet again, and try and beat the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday.
- Thomas Vanek was named the NHL’s 1st star of the week.
- Pominville’s assist on Vanek’s goal marks the 10th time this season that the two have recorded a point on the same goal.
- Buffalo has dropped six of seven games.
- The Sabres are now 1-2-1 on home ice.
- Buffalo has now allowed a goal scored in the final minute of play in a period for the second straight game, and three out of the last four.
– The Sabres hit the ice Tuesday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators at Scotia Bank Place. Puck drop set for 7:00.