OPINION: Lots of chances, lots of shots, but Sabres still lost

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 38 saves in just his second NHL game

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres didn’t beat the New York Rangers on Tuesday, but it certainly was an exciting game with both goaltenders stealing the show.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 38 of 41 shots for the Sabres, while Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves on 37 shots.

Buffalo got off fast and gave up only one scoring opportunity in the first period, which was a one-timer from Vitali Kravtsov.

Buffalo had 16 shots on Shesterkin and generated quite a few Grade A scoring opportunities. Tobi Rieder had five shots in the period, while Jeff Skinner chipped in with four. Buffalo was causing turnovers, getting up ice in droves, and getting bodies and pucks to the net, but still couldn't score.

It was one of those periods where I told Brian Koziol at intermission that you dominate a period like that and then let the opponent off the hook, it often comes back to haunt you.

Sure enough, at 2:22 of the second period, Dylan Cozens made an ill-advised pass right up the middle. It got out to the point to Brendan Smith. Jacob Bryson totally screened Luukkonen and the Rangers had a 1-0 lead.

New York raised its level in the second period, firing 20 shots at Luukkonen, but he was stellar, making 19 saves. No save was better than when the Rangers mounted one of their favorite four-man weaving tic-tac-toe plays that found Adam Fox wide-open and closing in. Luukkonen showed his athletic ability, getting across the crease and made the save with his head.

Another defensive play I really enjoyed was Mattias Samuelsson after the speedy Artemi Panarin got behind him. In just his sixth NHL game, the kid caught up, swept the puck off Panarin’s stick and didn’t even come close to committing a penalty.

What got the Sabres in trouble in the third period was a very dumb retaliation penalty by Tage Thompson when he came back at Smith who had knocked him down. There was 8:52 left, the Sabres were down by a goal and he does that.

It got compounded 1:16 later when Drake Caggiula got a delay of game penalty for, allegedly, shooting the puck over the glass. Replay showed that the puck went off a Rangers stick, but that’s not reviewable.

New York didn’t score on the 5-on-3, but they did scored on the 5-on-4 and put the game away at 3-1.

When you’re up against a hot goalie and struggling to score, you just can’t take that penalty if you’re Thompson.

On Sunday against the Rangers, Rasmus Dahlin spent over 27 minutes on the ice, and he followed that up Tuesday with 24:05. Young Samuelsson played 19:27, and it’s looking like he’s got a spot on this defense until the season is over.

Buffalo only has six games remaining this season and they’re against the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

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