Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The question I would ask is do you think it’s progress that the Buffalo Sabres got absolutely run over for the final 40 minutes of regulation and still got Thursday's game with the New York Rangers to overtime?
After a very good first period, the Sabres got outshot 36-10 in the final 40 minutes. There’s one reason, and one reason only this game got to overtime and it was goaltender Dustin Tokarski. The Sabres netminder made 44 saves to keep the game at 2-1 until late.
With just 3.6 seconds left, Sam Reinhart won a battle along the wall and got the puck to Casey Mittelstadt. He didn’t appear to even look and he found Tage Thompson in the left circle, who rifled and absolute bullet past Igor Shesterkin to produce overtime.
The game looked like it was going to a shootout, but Victor Olofsson was soft along the wall at his own blue line, turning the puck over to Adam Fox. Fox got the puck up the right wing side to Artemi Panarin, and Rasmus Dahlin allowed the pass across to Mika Zibanejad for the easy layup. Tokarski had no chance. The puck entered the net with 27.7 seconds left in the overtime.
Buffalo played a real nice first period and scored just 2:06 in. Dahlin overloaded the zone by coming down the slot from the point. Rasmus Asplund, Cody Eakin and Jeff Skinner all crashed the crease, and Asplund kept digging at Julien Gauthier, who sat on the puck and slid into the net with it.
Buffalo had 12 shots on net and quite a few good opportunities. After that, they totally looked like a team that was playing back-to-back nights and three games in four days. The Rangers had chance after chance after chance, spending pretty much two full periods in Buffalo’s end, but could only score twice.
The Sabres penalty kill sparkled again, killing off all four penalties against them, despite giving up 10 shots.
The Sabres had just broken their 18-game winless streak on Wednesday, and now they have points in three-straight games. As far as why the team collapsed, Don Granato said fatigue had set in.
“It looked like we just died, from an energy standpoint, in the second, and we reverted back to a lot of hesitation. That’s a real sign of fatigue," the interim head coach said following Thursday's loss. "There were lots of signs of fatigue, and you saw a little bit of it in the third, missing the net from point blank.”
Granato said he knew it was coming, especially with their schedule.
“Fatigue is a factor, certainly when you play back-to-back and the other team didn’t," he explained. "There’s no way around i,t as the other team is going to be better rested and better prepared. So now you’re going to have to deal with it, and when we spoke to the team at the end of the second period, that was the No. 1 message that what you’re battling fellas is fatigue. All the signs show it, you know, we know it. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, and we had to change our mindset and just find a way to surge and push through, get back to playing our game.”
That fact that Thompson tied the game so late showed this team now keeps battling, where as under Ralph Krueger, they were just going through the motions, playing a system that just wasn’t going to work.
It was a tough game to watch, and don’t get me wrong, this team has a long ways to go. However, the one thing I know, for sure, is they’re a lot better now then they were while Krueger was here.