Jack Eichol. There, I said it. You wouldn’t expect a story about the Buffalo Sabres without that, would you? But there’s nothing new to report. Nothing except that the Sabres are actually comporting themselves pretty well this year. They started out 4-1-1. They scored proflically, with three five-goal games in the first ssix contests. Then they met the Anaheim Ducks, Thursday evening in Anaheim.
The game started out wide open, a style that Anaheim has been featuring this year. The results? No scoring early. But the Sabres opened up a 1-0 lead with five to go in the first, and had made it 3-0 by the 6:01 point of period two.
The Ducks were wheeling, though, going fast through the neutral zone, and they narrowed the margin. It was 3-2 as the second period wound down.
The early part of the game was taken up by Milano love. Sonny Milano, recovered from concussion problems, got a goal and an assist last game. He and Trevor Zegras combined for two goals and two helpers last game, albeit in service of a last-minute 4-3 loss against the Jets. Fans watched for a repeat of the magic.
It was not to be. Buffalo took advantage, as indicated above. First, Zemgus Girgensons getting a long rebound out to the left of the net and burying a puck as he approached the goal line. The Sabres had two in less than two minutes in frame two, Rasmus Asplund and Arttu Ruitsaleinen scoring by 6:01 of P2.
The Buffalo team scored the second goal on the man advantage, and a short side, top shelf shot beat Anthony Stolarz.
The Sabres did it again just a bit later. The puck came to the dot and was shot by Bjork, then redirected by Ruotsalainen, who ended up directing it into the net.
Yet the Ducks weren’t done. Troy Terry—assisted by Getzlaf (fifth) and Fowler (fourth) made it 3-1. Then Adam Henrique got it to 3-2 with a few minutes left in period two. Henrique potted his 200thcareer goal on a persistence play where Silfverberg stubbornly got the puck to the front of the net, passed to Henrique, and watched as he poked at it twice before it went in. The Ducks thus narrowed a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 as the period was winding down. The took the shots lead, too, 27-26.
The second ended after a session of more pressure by the Ducks. Anaheim tried to take advantage of tired Sabres players on an icing with just under 25 seconds to go, but nothing doing as the Sabres successfully broke out, to no avail.
After his assist on Terry’s goal, the watch on was for Getzlaf, who would tie Teemu Selanne’s team points total with one more, either goal or assist. Getzlaf, this year, far from being a four-million-dollar passenger, is high on the list of offensive points getters, and he’s contributed a fight to the Ducks’ cause as well.
The Ducks came out in period three determined to put one more past Anderson to tie. Then who knows what could happen?
What did happen was that early on, a puck tricked through Anderson after Simon Benoit held the puck and wristed it from the top of the right circle in the Sabres’ end. Well, trickled might be a bit of an overstatement, but it deflected off the Buffalo player’s leg, the redirection fooling Anderson, who let it go in between his arm and body well into the net. Pretty enough goal, especially for Benoit’s first one.
He commented after the game, saying that he would call his parents, even though in Quebec, it was 1am in the morning. “It feels great. The first one is always the special one, but now it’s done, so I have to look for some more.” He said that “I’m gonna call and wake [my parents] up.”
The Ducks kept up the tempo, continuing to stay on top of the Sabres in their zone. They outshot the opponent 9-0 as the period wound to half, but ended up down 29-27 in shots.
The score was tied with less than two to go when the Sabres put a puck behind Anthony Stolarz and off the inside of the goal post. No goal. Was a repeat collapse in view? The players must have wondered, but they steeled themselves and kept the puck in the Buffalo zone late, forcing the tie to be complete. A point at least would be gained on the night.
The tandem of Zegras and Milano was again in evidence, especially as the third period went on and into the OT period. It’s hard not to see a LeCavalier-St. Louis combo with these two, though let’s see how they develop, and let’s hope for his sake that Milano stays concussion-free.
Five minutes of OT produced the best chance for the Ducks’ Sam Steel, who held the puck coming down the slot on the left side and just kept it too long with the zone all his. It ended up bouncing off a leg and was harmlessly sitting next to the keeper’s leg.
A minute or so later, when Buffalo’s Asplund scored. Olofsson fought the puck across the slot and passed it to Asplund, who had an essentially open net to shoot into at that point. Stolarz was dead to rights, sliding to his right out of the net.
The game ended with the team up the road, the LA Kings, having about twelve minutes to go in their contest, which started thirty minutes after the Ducks’ game did. More on that below.
There are two NHL teams in SoCal, as you’re aware. Up the road, the Kings were taking on Winnipeg, who came in with a 3-2-1 record.
The LA team got themselves into a bit of an early hole when Pierre-Luc Dubois staked Winnipeg to a lead with just over four minutes gone.
Rasmus Kupari tied the game with his superior skating ability, which sprung him at 11:23 and saw him go in alone on goal to score for the Kings.
The Kings then kept at it, getting the 2-1 lead when Adrian Kempe (a player if any were who was being targeted by the “Why not now?” lingo from fans, and one might assume executives) scored very early into period two. This was an evenly played game through two periods, the shots 23-22 in favor of LA.
Note that the Kings were without Drew Doughty and Sean Walker, both right-shot Dmen, the former of whom takes over most every game he plays and has led the league in time-on-ice for years. He’s out for an extended time, Walker for the year.
The Kings couldn’t hold. The Jets scored two goals consecutively and were up 3-2 by 7:35 of the third period. They held on despite the requisite goalie pull on which the Kings pressured with a minute to go. LA has now lost every game save their first.
The Ducks, to cycle quickly back there, are barely ahead of the Kings in standings points, and that because they’ve added three OT points to their one win, to LA’s one.
Dustin Brown of the Kings pointed to execution, and particularly passing, as the key to a hoped-for LA turnaround.
Next, Montreal takes on the Kings on Saturday, and the Ducks go to Vegas Friday to face the Golden Knights.