Although the team didn’t bring their A- game, the Buffalo Sabres still managed to power through and defeat the visiting San Jose Sharks 6-3 last night. The contest was the first of two meetings this season between these teams from opposite ends of the country.
Paul Gaustad and Thomas Vanek both scored two goals apiece while Cody McCormick registered three points scoring once and assisting on two others. Jason Pominville also gained a point. Although the game was full of multiple turnovers, a few unnecessary penalties (too many men, anyone?), and obvious poor performances at times, the Sabres had confidence. Their positive attitudes on maintaining the lead over the Sharks brought them victory-and San Jose was unable to gain a goal advantage for any duration of time throughout the game.
“Between periods we were talking about staying with our game and not panicking. There wasn’t any doubt that we could keep that lead, and we just brought that attitude into the third,” said McCormick.
Well, it’s good to know the guys weren’t panicking. The fans were on the edge of their seats, cringing and hoping the Sabres wouldn’t spiral downward as the game went on, as they have been known to do. Thankfully, it only got better.
Buffalo got on the board first a little over halfway into the opening period. Instantly after winning the faceoff, Gaustad whipped one right past Sharks’ netminder Antii Niemi for his second of the year. That’s how it’s done-win the puck drop, pass (if necessary), shoot, and score. Boom.
The Sabres took the 2-0 lead 6:48 into the second stanza, when Derek Roy and Nathan Gerbe assisted Vanek’s rebound slap shot tally. These three forwards were one of the lines who got it done twice this game-clearly they belong together.
The population of Pominville increased by one, after San Jose defenseman Jason Demers turned the puck over to Pominville. Pominville flew up the left side on a breakaway and wristed it past Niemi for his third this season. Since returning from injured reserve, he hasn’t scored many goals. It’s great to see he’s getting his game back.
After two unanswered goals, San Jose finally managed to respond after Pominville’s breakaway. For his 14th goal this season, 21-year-old Logan Couture took a screenshot on the power-play and put one past Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller.
With only less than a minute to go in the second, Marc-Edouard Vlasic fired one past Miller. Couture’s cross-ice pass to Vlasic earned him his second point of the evening. Ryane Clowe also earned his second point, having also assisted on his club’s first goal of the night.
Buffalo didn’t let San Jose’s double tallies get to them-after all, they still had the one-goal advantage. They knew they could hold on. The game turned even more in their favor in the first minute of final stanza. Cody McCormick registered his second point after Gaustad dished him the puck and he tipped it past Niemi. The assist also gave Gaustad a multiple-point game, proving that the line of McCormick, Gaustad, and Mike Grier is another that brings wonder to the ice.
The Sharks managed to get one more with a goal by Douglas Murray. Tyler Ennis, who sunk further and further into the shadows throughout the game, attempted to clear the puck from the Buffalo zone; however, Torrey Mitchell immediately snagged it and passed to Murray. Murray one-timed it past Miller for his first goal this year.
Speaking of Ennis, the line he shared with Jochen Hecht and Patrick Kaleta failed to register any points in the game. Chances were there, but the shots weren’t taken. The puck was turned over. Ennis didn’t appear to play in the last fourth of the final period. Hopefully he’ll practice a bit harder in the coming days and bring his game against Pittsburgh tomorrow night, because the Sabres need the talented rookie at his very best. It wouldn’t hurt for Hecht and Kaleta to try a little more either.
After Niemi fled to the bench in the final minute of the game, Gaustad fired an empty-netter for his third point of the night at 19:33. McCormick also earned his third, and Andrej Sekera also helped. Seconds later, Vanek struck again. With Niemi back in net, Derek Roy dished Vanek the perfect pass, and Vanek snapped it home to secure the Sabres 6-3 victory.
So how did Ruff respond to his team’s effort?
“We had a little bit of a slow start. There was a little bit of a pause in our game. But I thought when we really started to get guys driving ahead of people I thought we did a nice job,” he said.
Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, and the league-leading Pittsburgh Penguins journey to Buffalo tomorrow night, and the Sabres need to bring it. Each player needs to be top-notch. Lines need to work together and bring magic to the game. Opportunities need to be taken, and shots need to be fired. The Pens will be ready. Will the Sabres?