Sabres played well, but it's still not good enough to beat the best

Nashville showed why it's number one in the NHL

Paul Hamilton
March 19, 2018 - 9:11 pm

Photo: Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Sabres weren’t intimidated by the National Hockey League’s best team in the first period. After Viktor Arvidsson walked in all alone in the first seven seconds of the period, it was all Buffalo for about 12 minutes.

Just like they did against Chicago, the line of Evan Rodrigues, Nick Baptiste and Justin Bailey drove the Preds crazy with their speed. Early in the period, Baptiste blew in on the right wing side and got a puck past Pekka Rinne and into the crease. Justin Bailey had nothing but the wide open net, but he couldn’t knock the bouncing puck out of the air.

Those two had back-to-back shots in close later in the period, but Rinne was sharp again.

The line was playing so fast, they forced the only penalty of the period when Mattias Ekholm hooked Baptiste.

Jack Eichel showed his ankle is very OK as he got reeved up in his own zone and hit high gear as he entered the Nashville zone. He blew around P.K. Subban like he had never been on skates and flew through Rinne’s crease forcing a huge save.

Linus Ullmark made 10 saves in the first period while Rinne had 13.

Rasmus Ristolainen played a ton, logging 8:14 of ice time.

Buffalo opened the second period well when Sam Reinhart forced a turnover and came down the slot only to shoot over the net.

Eichel grazed a post about two minutes later and Rinne made a huge pad save on Baptiste flying down the slot.

Right before Buffalo got behind, Rodrigues forced a turnover sending Baptiste in 2-on-1 with Bailey. Baptiste was open the whole way for a shot, but tried to force a pass and Nick Bonino got back to break it up.

We had to re-welcome Ullmark back to the game when Kyle Turris put a surprise, screened backhand on him. I don't know if he saw it, but he made a great save.

Ullmark withstood a barrage from Nashville as some of the Sabres got caught on the ice for a long shift. Casey Nelson jumped in and picked off a telegraphed pass by Kevin Fiala and pulled away from the defense. Alexei Emelin hooked him on the hands, but nothing was called.

The Sabres were at their best and executing Phil Housley’s game plan, but Rinne had other ideas against his former assistant coach.

Nashville got on the board when Mike Fisher tipped a screened shot by Ullmark and Ryan Johansen had a wide open net off a 3-on-1.

Housley challenged Fisher’s goal for goaltender interference. Fisher did slightly grab Ullmark’s glove and made slight skate contact with him, but not enough to overturn the play. Phil Housley was furious after the game because he thinks Fisher making contact with Ullmark's skate did not allow his goaltender a chance to get into the butterfly and make a save.

Ullmark and his teammates had played very well, but there’s a reason why Nashville is the league’s number one team. They win periods and win games where they’re outplayed.

Brendan Guhle was really skating well in the second period and by the end of 40 minutes, he and Eichel had nine shots on goal.

Ryan O’Reilly had a horrible first 40 minutes in the faceoff circle going 7-for-17.

Buffalo opened the third period with a power play and Kyle Okposo had Rinne beat from the right circle, but rang the post solid.

Later in the third, Eichel slide the puck through the crease to Jason Pominville for a tap in, but he couldn't get his stick on the puck and then Rinne robbed Reinhart in close.

The problem with Rinne is he's only going to give a few opportunites. Buffalo had three golden chances and Bailey, Okposo and Pomnivlle missed all three.

In the end, this was a four goal game thanks to two late goals, but the game was there for the Sabres and Rinne took it away. He was the first star, making 35 saves and earned every bit of it.

Ristolainen played 24:43 in this game and had four shots and five hits. Guhle and Scott Wilson were both minus three on the game.

It wasn't O'Reilly's night in the faceoff dot, winning just 11-of-25 draws.

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