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Overreactions with 52 to go: Zadorov’s OT winner extends Sabres’ streak

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For once, as this has been a rare occasion this 2014-2015 season, you can look at a game that the Sabres won and say to yourself, “They deserved the win.” Tonight was just one of those nights.

Nikita Zadorov‘s goal 29 seconds into overtime was the gamebreaker, as the Sabres defeated Florida, 4-3.

“I probably never had that big a goal in my life,” said Zadorov. “It’s a great feeling and I’m going to try to do it again.”

The young defenseman, fresh off a debate about whether or not he’ll be allowed to go play for Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal, received a cross-ice pass from Tyler Ennis and ripped the winner past Panthers goaltender Al Montoya.

Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo, which has now unreasonably won nine of their last 12.

Hodgson, who was stuck in the press box last game due to his lack of production, broke things open just 2:06 into the game, taking a pass from Patrick Kaleta and ripping it past Montoya.

“He got exactly where goal-scorers have got to get to,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Sean Bergenheim, Jimmy Hayes and Jussi Jokinen scored for Florida, who turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead before Gionta’s equalizer. Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win.

Buffalo closes their four game homestand Monday against Ottawa.

  • This was just the third time this season that the Sabres outshot their opponent. Buffalo finished with 32 shots on goal, just ahead of Florida’s 28. They are 3-0-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • Seriously, just three times in 30 games. That’s ridiculously terrible.
  • Nikita Zadorov is a star and he’s rapidly moving up the list of “Easiest guys to root for.” Kid is very charismatic and more importantly he’s very good at playing hockey. Part of the Sabres’ surge is due to the fact he’s been getting minutes.
  • That Tyler Myers breakout pass to Brian Gionta’s tying goal was fantastic and the finish was beautiful. That’s a hell of hockey play. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 53 to go: Sabres keep inexplicable run going, beat Flames 4-3

460334184_slideThe season is still young enough where the expected results don’t yet match the sample size. The Sabres, by far the worst team in the league in just about every category, somehow can’t find a way to get run over on a nightly basis where it matters most.

The regression is coming, but we’re not there yet.

Getting outshot 45-19 and out-attempted 76-36, the Buffalo Sabres, on the strength of a huge night from their top line, defeated Calgary 4-3.

Matt Moulson scored his second of the night with 7:29 remaining to give the Sabres a tenuous lead they wouldn’t surrender. Tyler Ennis would finish with three assists and Latvian god Zemgus Girgensons added a third period goal and an assist to pace the Sabres. Marcus Foligno scored Buffalo’s other goal.

“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan. “But, it does show that the belief factor is starting to creep in.”

Jhonas Enroth was the workhorse again, stopping 42 of the 45 shots he faced. He’s come away with a win in 7 of his last 9 starts.

Buffalo has now won 8 of their last 11, and continue their homestand Saturday night against noted division rival Florida.

  • Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges… they did not have a good game. On the ice for every Calgary goal, Gorges himself was responsible for two of them, losing battles that quickly ended up behind Enroth. Myers was on the ice for 36 shot attempts against by the Flames.
  • Good that Marcus Foligno tallied a goal, but besides being smart enough to stand by himself on the back end of the goal crease, that goal was all Drew Stafford. Stafford made a great play to defend the puck behind the net and slide it cross-crease to an awaiting Foligno.
  • Really, really phenomenal game from Tyler Ennis. The top line has been playing very well and the result tonight is mainly on them. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 57 to go: Latvia defeats Tampa in a shootout

459856786_slideRiding a hot streak coming into Tuesday night’s game against the first-place Lightning, anyone could’ve respectably expected the Sabres run to come to an end. The team’s winning ways have been marked by stellar goaltending and puck luck, things that people who use logic and evidence would consider “unsustainable.”

But Ted Nolan knows how to get his boys to grit out wins, so the streak continues.

A late Zemgus Girgensons goal forced overtime, and the Buffalo Sabres walked away victorious in the shootout, defeating Tampa Bay 2-1.

Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout for Buffalo, who’ve now won six of their past seven. But the star was goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who made 26 saves and kept the Lightning off the board for the first 49 minutes of the game.

“Obviously the confidence is a little bit higher now,” Enroth said.

Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, who were limited to two shots as a team in the opening period.

“The one thing we are doing is we’re getting better and we’re working on certain things,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Part of getting better is that resiliency, to keep going and keep going.”

The teams head to Florida to complete their back-to-back on Thursday.

  • That game was absolutely brutal to watch. Forget the result, that wasn’t entertaining hockey. But that’s Ted Nolan for you.
  • One of the few players who jumped out at me as playing well was Nikita Zadorov. Kid has been really good all year. In fact, he’s been so good it might be a good idea to let him go play in the World Juniors.
  • I get that Girgensons has been playing well, but let’s take a step back on the All-Star talk. It’s a bunch of Latvians voting like crazy. If every team gets a guy, then maybe he’s that guy. But he’s not even top 100 in scoring. Relax. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 59 to go: But really, how about that Ennis goal?

459693712_slideWhen the season is going like it is, it’s hard for a lot of fans to convince themselves to turn on a game. Some might not see the value in it if the team’s this bad. Some just don’t care to unless the team is good.

But then something will happen, like Tyler Ennis‘ ridiculous acrobatic goal, and reaffirm that there’s a reason to tune in every night. You don’t know what you’re going to see, or in the case of someone who didn’t take the time to watch or sold their tickets, what you’re going to miss.

Ennis’ goal early in the first period gave Buffalo a lead they’d eventually surrender, but a fortunate bounce in the final minutes gave the Sabres a 2-1 win over the visiting Canadiens, snapping a winless skid against Montreal.

Matt Moulson tapped home a loose puck into a vacated net after a stanchion on the boards knocked it away from Habs goaltender Carey Price.

“It must be a lucky day, so I’ll take it,” said Moulson.

P.A. Parenteau scored a powerplay goal early in the third period to tie the game, poking in a puck from underneath Jhonas Enroth’s skate.

Buffalo has now won four of five and is undoubtedly a lock for a playoff spot.

  • Obviously we don’t want this team to be winning too many games this season, but I’ll take a dumb luck, last second win over Toronto/Montreal at First Niagara Center eight days a week.
  • Maybe the best game Andrej Meszaros has played as a Sabre. Was solid in both ends.
  • The Nikita Zadorov-Rasmus Ristolainen pairing has been on the ice for one goal against all season, Jori Lehtera’s second in the 6-1 loss to St. Louis. That was November 11th.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 60 to go: Sabres get back on right track, lose to team that was the Thrashers

459625692_slideYou’d almost expect the Sabres to come out flying, riding a three game winning streak and having one game in the last eight days. But you’d be disappointed.

Buffalo came out flat, surrendered an early power play goal, and eventually fell to the team now called the Jets by a 2-1 score.

Patrick Kaleta‘s celebrated return to First Niagara Center ice was a storyline through the night, as his roughing penalty at 3:06 led to the opening Winnipeg goal.

Late in the second period, he was drilled into the boards from behind by Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry, drawing a major penalty. Buffalo wasted no time, surrendering a shorthanded goal 14 seconds into the penalty, with Michael Frolik taking advantage of an Andre Benoit giveaway.

“It was tough,” said Sabres defenseman Andrej Meszaros. “The puck was bouncing. We didn’t execute. We didn’t do anything on the power play.”

Chris Stewart would pull the Sabres within one at 5:30 of the third period, cashing a breakaway for his second of the season. But Buffalo couldn’t find a way to get the equalizer and dropped back into dead last in the league.

Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves for Buffalo, falling to 3-9-1 on the season.

  • Rasmus Ristolainen was fantastic. Him and Nikita Zadorov were by far the Sabres’ best defense pairing.
  • Andrej Meszaros on the other hand was solid. Solid in the way that he played the Andrej Meszaros game that we’ve grown to expect, and that he was both awful and sometimes barely competent.
  • Announced attendance was 18,442. Couldn’t sell out the night before Thanksgiving? That’s weak. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 62 to go: Sabres beat Sharks (again) on wild weather day in WNY

459205408_slideIt’s fairly common for the region to figuratively groan every time Western New York gets attention for bad weather. It happens, but the locals will always argue that the summers are real nice and it snows more in other places and the people are great and yada, yada, yada… but with a national television audience tuning in, it was a night about the weather.

With up to five feet of snow (accurate) burying parts of metropolitan Buffalo, including areas just minutes from First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres continued their dominance of the San Jose Sharks, picking up a 4-1 win in front of an estimated crowd of about 6,200. It was the Sabres’ eighth straight win against the Sharks, who haven’t won in Buffalo since 2005.

“It was strange at the beginning, but I think the people that were here certainly gave us a boost and how hard they fought even to be here,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Brian Gionta scored twice for Buffalo, his first two goals as a Sabre. Model American and hockey god Brian Flynn added a goal and an assist, while Nic Deslauriers added the opening goal for Buffalo.

Michal Neuvirth stopped all ten shots he faced, but had to leave the game after the opening period with a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth entered the game in relief and stopped 19 of 20 San Jose shots to pick up the win.

Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who account for two of Buffalo’s three regulation wins this season.

  • The injury forced goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, a former Shark who’s been out of the NHL for a decade, to suit up as an emergency goaltender in case Enroth went down. Irbe spent five seasons with the Sharks, including their inaugural season in 1991-92.
  • Buffalo finished with fourteen shots on goal, their third lowest total of the season. The 30-14 shot difference was near identical to the 30-15 shot totals in the Sabres’ win over the Sharks in San Jose last month.
  • I tweeted it before the game, but that’ll be one of the more memorable games of this season and maybe of this whole rebuild. I haven’t seen the building that empty since the bankruptcy days over a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 63 to go: Sabres crush Leafs in convincing and hilarious fashion

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Any time the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, it’s dreaded. Thousands of thousands of the worst, most obnoxious jackasses that come through the doors of First Niagara Center all season routinely leave their mark.

Tonight, they left jerseys on the ice. They left beer cans. And they left without two points.

The Buffalo Sabres, with a home crowd in Leafs gear booing them as they took the ice, played their best and most complete game of the season. With a 6-2 win, the throngs of visitors and their opponent went home angry and disgusted.

It was great. Really. Really great.

Zemgus Girgensons scored twice and Buffalo got rock solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, stopping 32 of 34 Toronto shots.

“It’s hard enough when you don’t win games,” said Girgensons. “Today was absolutely different how we played.”

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers also scored for the Sabres.

“It was a fun one,” said Ennis.

David Clarkson and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

  • Buffalo registered a season-high 35 shots on goal. The previous high was 32, twice. They registered 30+ just three times before tonight, and won none of those games.
  • Brian Flynn on that second goal was super dreamy. Tyson Strachan ripped the puck around the wall and Flynn took off immediately, beats Reimer to the puck and is cool as the other side of the pillow in finding Girgensons in the high slot. Great play. Super duper.
  • Understated with the goalscoring output is how well Neuvirth played. Made some huge saves early to keep the Leafs off the board until late in the second period. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 66 to go: That Crosby guy is an okay hockey player

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The best hockey player in the world was at First Niagara Center tonight, and spoiler alert: he doesn’t play for Buffalo.

Sometimes, it’s just a joy to watch a generational talent just light it up, and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby did just that. Crosby tallied an assist on each of Pittsburgh’s first five goals, as the visiting Pens cruised, leaving the hometown Sabres with a 6-1 defeat.

Zemgus Girgensons scored late in the second period to make it 5-1, but it was answered by a goal by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also got two goals each from Kris Letang and Predators legend Patric Hornqvist. But it was the Crosby show.

The game looked a lot like this:

Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth was thrown to the wolves, giving up six goals on 39 shots. The Sabres struggled to generate offense, getting outshot 11-4 in the opening period and 26-12 through two periods.

  • Enroth didn’t even speak after the game, but it’s not like there’s much for him to say. He’s 1-7-1 on the season and on average is facing almost 37 shots a game.
  • The locker room after games is turning into a contest of “How many guys are left in the room when they open the door?” Guys don’t want to talk, and it’s usually the same things being said. Tonight, it was Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons who really spoke. Cody Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell milled around. But everyone else just got the hell out of there. What can they say?
  • Gionta had a team best 17 Corsi For and a team best 4 Corsi Against. Good game for him. He assisted on the Girgensons goal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 67 to go: Neuvirth can’t do everything

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There wasn’t a lot of hope for good hockey with the 29th and 30th place teams in the National League facing off at First Niagara Center, but there was at least a lot of action.

If you were Michal Neuvirth, there was too much.

Neuvirth was impressive, but had to bear the brunt of 52 Edmonton shots, as the visiting Oilers handed the Sabres a 3-2 loss for their first road win of the season.

Noted Oiler-killer Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo, with Moulson finally snagging his first of the season. The two goals were enough to give the Sabres a lead in the final ten minutes, but the Oilers finally took control, with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon adding the tying and winning goals.

“They were just throwing it at the net, and sending guys with traffic,” said Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. “To be honest, we should take a page out of their book.”

Edmonton finished with 85 shot attempts, and their 52 shots on goal were both a season-high for them and a season-worst for the Sabres.

Buffalo is right back at it Saturday night, with the Penguins in town.

  • The Sabres should trade Drew Stafford immediately after the next game against Edmonton, because his stock will never be higher. He always seems to score against them. Should’ve placed a bet on it before the game.
  • Congrats to Oilers rookie Iiro Pakarinen, who scored his first NHL goal and now convincingly holds the title of my favorite name in the National Hockey League. The title was previously vacated by legendary Slovak forward Branko Radivojevic.
  • Neuvirth is going to have an aneurysm at some point this season. He was very aggravated after the game, calling for his post game presser earlier than normal. He seems sick of being bombarded every game. And there’s 67 games left!
  • Absolutely wonderful job by the Sabres on the pregame ceremonies for Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Jim Kelly/Rick Jeanneret puck drop was great. Only thing I would’ve liked to see is the ads on the boards in monotone lavender like other teams have done.
  • It amazes me that Ted Nolan felt that he just had to get Andre Benoit back in the lineup tonight. He was on the ice for a team-worst 41 shot attempts against, as well as the first two Edmonton goals. Play him more and see what happens: goals, for the other team.
  • The look of relief on Matt Moulson’s face was obvious. Hopefully they start going in more often for him. Not too often, we’ve got a tank to worry about. But he’s the kind of guy you like to see succeed. He wants to be here, amazingly. Appreciate that.
  • Attendance was listed at 17,490. In-house was probably closer to 15,500. Lots of empties for a Friday night.
  • Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. 29th place, terrible Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. What a mess.
  • Saw an Oilers beat writer tweet wondering why the Sabres would ever trade Tyler Myers. This means one thing: someone might actually want him. Sell. Sell. Sell.

3MI Three Star Selections
1. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton
3. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton (2 assists)
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton (Goal (1))
3. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo (49 saves, 3 GA)

Quote of the night:

“They wanted to win more than us… good for them.” — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth

Overreactions with 68 to go: Neuvirth shines in shootout loss to Habs

458483678_slideFor 60 minutes, fans were treated to some of the most monotonous, unremarkable hockey that has been played in First Niagara Center, which is saying a lot.

But five thrilling minutes of four-on-four hockey weren’t enough to decide the game, and thanks to a skills competition, Montreal walked out of Buffalo with two points after handing them a 2-1 shootout loss.

Drew Stafford scored the only goal for Buffalo, but goaltender Michal Neuvirth was sensational all night. While the Habs struggled to get shots on goal early, Neuvirth was sharp all night, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 16 of 17 over the final 25 minutes.

Montreal’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored both in regulation and in the shootout to propel the Canadiens to the win.

Buffalo now faces a weekend back-to-back where they host Edmonton and Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday.

  • This might’ve been Brian Gionta’s best game as a Sabre. Facing his former team, he didn’t tally a point but did manage to score in the shootout. He was noticeable, much more noticeable than he has been.
  • Good for Nic Deslauriers stepping up to scrap and try to make an impression. He got fed some fists to the face, but you appreciate the effort.
  • Tyler Myers was credited with the primary assist on the Stafford goal. Great work by him taking the puck himself, trying to deke through his own teammate Tyler Ennis, and losing control of the puck in such a way that it coasted right through a defenseman to Stafford on the doorstep. They all look the same in the boxscore. Read the rest of this entry
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