Buffalo would come into tonight’s game, off a loss for the first time this season, having played less than 24 hours ago.
The Sabres came out fast and energized, looking to make a strong statement against Carolina. Buffalo made a point to finish off their checks, in an attempt to wear the Hurricanes down. The usual suspects, Patrick Kaleta and Steve Ott were out to make their presence be felt. Kaleta spent his time being a pest, and was successful in drawing a penalty late in the period.
Steve Ott would do his best to rile up the Hurricanes and found himself engaging in a scrap with Tim Gleason.
There were a handful of scoring opportunities for both teams, but neither could capitalize through twenty minutes.
Heading into the second period, both sides tried to take over the game and jumpstart their offense.
The Foligno/Ennis/Stafford line came out blazing early in, with many good chances, but the three just couldn’t get the puck in the net.
Throughout the second period, we would realize that the story of the game was the play of both goaltenders, Ryan Miller and Dan Ellis. Both were putting away big chances, which kept the game knotted at two through forty minutes.
When the puck dropped in the third period, the Sabres took off and set the tone early. Fast-paced offensive play led to a tripping penalty that would send the Sabres to the power play.
Naturally, Thomas Vanek would score his fifth goal of the season and put the Sabres in the goal column first.
Less than a minute after Vanek’s goal, Marcus Foligno would be assessed a penalty that would seem to shift the momentum. A little over a half minute after getting on the aforementioned power play, Carolina would score the equalizer and quickly put a stop to any momentum the Sabres had.
Another storyline tonight was lost faceoffs, which would lead to the go-ahead goal for Carolina.
Eric Staal would win a faceoff, pass the puck back to defenseman Jay Harrison, who shot a puck with eyes into the net.
“The faceoff goal hurt us tonight,” Ruff said.
With just a few minutes in the game, the Sabres began to slowly re-apply pressure but that was all halted with a late cross checking penalty to Thomas Vanek.
“It wasn’t frustration, I’m getting just as much or more (cross checking) on every other shift,” Vanek said.
The Sabres would be left short handed, until they pulled Ryan Miller for the extra attacker. Shortly thereafter, Jeff Skinner would bring the puck down ice and get challenged by Tyler Myers. Myers would almost seem to give up on the play, allowing Skinner to ice the game with an empty net goal.
This loss puts the Sabres at 2-2-0 on the young season, with their next game coming up this Sunday at 3 PM versus the Washington Capitals.
Notes – Rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko played no shifts in the third period. “I tried to get us to be a little harder with Ott and Kaleta on Eric Staal,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “When it got to a three-line game, I just didn’t think it was fair to put Grigorenko back into the fire.”
After the game, Grigorenko seemed somber about his performance tonight but he wasn’t completely down-and-out. “I’m just happy to be here, even if it’s just for a few shifts a game,” Grigorenko said.
– Lindy Ruff revealed postgame that Thomas Vanek suffered a muscle strain. Ruff said he would expect to give Vanek the day off tomorrow and “go from there” when determining if Vanek will play Sunday vs. Washington.
– The Sabres had another miserable night at the faceoff dot, winning only 23 of 65 faceoffs. They also currently rank dead-last in the NHL in that statistical category with winning only 40.6% of their faceoffs.
– Lindy Ruff confirmed after tonight’s loss that he will shake the lines up, aside from the Hodgson/Pominville/Vanek line, for Sunday’s game vs. Washington