Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – The Sabres were cruising along in the second period leading 3-1. They had some good chances on Mikko Koskinen to make it 4-1, especially when Jeff Skinner went in alone, but was stopped.
Casey Nelson had a couple of chances with screens in front, but then all of a sudden it changed and the Sabres gave up another three goal period.
At 16:29 former Sabres Zack Kassian takes a cross-ice pass from Connor McDavid and it’s 3-2. Just 2:17 later, both Marco Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen get caught over on the far wall. Jason Pominville allows Darnell Nurse to come open down the slot and just like that it’s tied. Pominville took totally responsibility for the goal, but those three players are here to calm things done, not do that. Leon Draisaitl is not going to score from the wall. What in the world is Scandella doing coming over to that side of the ice when Ristolainen is already there?
It only took the Oilers 1:09 to take the lead when Adam Larsson shot was tipped by Kyle Brodziak. The puck slowly went through the pads of Linus Ullmark. That was the end of Ullmark as Carter Hutton took over in the third period.
The last 3:31 of that period just shows how soft and fragile this team is. They were in complete control of the game and all of a sudden they were behind.
Buffalo survived a shorthanded goal at 1:28 of the first period when Ristolainen had no idea that Draisaitl and McDavid had gotten behind him, but that goal didn’t destroy them.
Before the power play ended, Jack Eichel came through the left circle and beat Koskinen with a nice shot to the far side.
Phil Housley put veterans Scott Wilson and Pominville with Casey Mittelstadt to try to help the struggling kid and it worked for a while. Wilson did a nice job on the forcheck and found Mittelstadt in front alone for his 10th of the season.
Eichel gave his group a two goal cushion grabbing a puck at center ice and scoring from the right circle. It was his 25th goal tying a career high.
In the third period Buffalo had more than a few chances to tie it, but missed wide open nets. Jason Pominville was off the post with the whole net in front of him, but double hit the puck. After the shot left his stick, the puck was heading into the empty net, but he basically made the save by hitting it again making the puck come out.
Jeff Skinner also missed an open net on a tip.
Nelson made his return after getting injured in December and didn’t look rusty. I thought he meshed well with Rasmus Dahlin for the first two periods.
Housley was honest after the game. He said you can’t play just 55 minutes in this league and expect to win. He said, “We outshot them, we out-chanced them, there is no reason why we shouldn’t have come out with two points tonight”
They absolutely should’ve won that game and about 10 others this season where they came totally came unhinged.
Right now they are not getting key saves, their top defensemen are mediocre at best and their big goal scorer has gone ice cold.
I can tell you the coaching staff tells them in practice where they need to be, they tell them in film sessions where they need to be, but some of them just can’t comprehend what the coaches are telling them. It’s just a mess and it’s Jason Botterill’s job to fix it.