The Sabres were at their best down two men

Buffalo has done well this season on the 5-on-3 penalty kill

Paul Hamilton
February 14, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres have been very good on 5-on-3 situations against this season, but their best one may have come Tuesday.

Tampa Bay had a 1:53 two-man advantage, but the Sabres killed it off. The Lightning came in with the second best power play in the NHL and had already scored one, but this was different.

Marco Scandella, Ryan O’Reilly, Jacob Josefson and Rasmus Ristolainen all had big shot blocks. O’Reilly said the coaching staff does a good job to get them ready, “We’re prepared coming in, we know the big plays that they want to run and I think we did a good job of taking those away. It starts with Johnny, he made some big saves and he was key.”

Victor Hedman has a cannon for a shot, but O’Reilly got in front of it. It hit his shin pad so hard, the puck cleared the zone. O’Reilly said, “I actually wasn’t expecting him to shoot it, it was luck for me that I blocked it and the puck got out, but that’s what it takes, other guys making huge blocks.”

“That was huge, a couple of big blocks by our guys putting themselves in front of the puck.”

Phil Housley knows what it takes to win hockey games. He was brought up in many organizations and he said after that kill, they all got a lift, “The guys are really inspired by that, all our penalty killers did a terrific job. Our guys really controlled their time and space for the most part.”

You’ve probably heard in all jobs that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to be better at it. Scott Wilson said, “I think we’re learning on the PK to really take pride in it. Guys need to enjoy it for it to be successful, so I think guys are having a blast out there and getting it down for each other. Johnny back there keeping the puck out is keeping us confident.”

Coaches will always say that the goalie is your best penalty killer. Chad Johnson said when it becomes a 5-on-3 against, his mindset changes. “For me it’s more about the depth part of it. You can’t really be too aggressive on the shots because if you get too aggressive, teams will give you a fake pass and beat you cross-ice.

“If you watch most goalies will play a little deeper in their crease, deeper than they would on a 5-on-4 because you don’t want to get beat on the backdoor plays.”

Communication is key on the 5-on-3 kill too. Johnson said they must really be in sync, “We all have to read off each other. I think if there’s any hesitation, then you can get exploited in areas. Everybody was on the same page, I knew where the shot was coming, if there was an opportunity there, they gave that to me and they battled the rebound, so everything came together because it has to on 5-on-3 because plays happen very fast.”

One of the biggest faults on this team is their lack of awareness, but Wilson said it was the total opposite in this spot, “Being aware of everybody else, especially against a team like that. They have some guys that shift around, you know head on a swivel and just kind of have your stick on the ice, like that one just hit my stick, so it’s a little detail that goes a long way.”

In the past three games, the Sabres have beaten the top two teams in the NHL. The team played both those games just like they did the 5-on-3. Josefson said, “It all comes down to that you have to sacrifice yourself. You’re two men short out there, so we have to be willing to block shots and being in lanes and our coaching staff makes a good game plan for us and make a good scouting report for us, so we know what to expect.”

Josefson has had to fight through many injuries this season, but when it came to blocking shots on the 5-on-3 he didn’t hesitate, “When the coaches put you out in an important situation like that, all that matters is to keep the puck out of the net and you can’t really think about getting injured again, you just do whatever it takes and you just have to deal with the consequences after.”

Phil Housley wanted to get his players some rest, so only a few skated on Wednesday before the flight to Ottawa.

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