Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Do you ever get those feelings during a game where you just know a team is going to do something?
It happened to me on Saturday while the Buffalo Sabres were down 3-1, and then 4-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Something was telling me that this was the night the Sabres were going to overcome a two-goal deficit and win.
I was partially right, as they came back twice from two goals down, only to lose 5-4 with just 11.8 second left in regulation time.
After the game, Sabres head coach Don Granato said there was a mistake the Sabres made on the game-winning goal that he declined to elaborate on.
Was it that when Mark Pysyk had the puck behind the net and trusted he had Jeff Skinner on the wall (which he did)? Skinner just stood there and allowed Alex Kerfoot to jump the play, skate right by him and set up Morgan Rielly in the slot for the goal.
Collin Miller started the play by finding Pysyk behind the net. The problem is he promptly went out front and accidentally screened Aaron Dell. The puck just caught the crossbar off Rielly's show and went in. Dell never saw the shot at all.
Since Granato didn’t want to throw any of his players under the bus, I also wonder if he’d like Rasmus Asplund to make a better effort to get to Rielly and disrupt the shot.
It was a shame that happened to Skinner, because, up to that point in the game, he probably had his best game in over two years. He was hard on pucks, positioned himself perfectly to score two goals, and got to a puck that he relayed to Tage Thompson for another goal.
After falling behind 1-0, Skinner used his veteran smarts to get himself in perfect position to be ready for Miller’s shot that went wide and then off the back wall. Skinner understands how the puck will play off the wall, and he was there to get the puck and put it into a yawning net. He didn't want to take credit for that saying it was lucky, but I think it was veteran savvy.
With Toronto up 3-1, Pysyk worked hard to cause a turnover to Skinner, who was in support right behind him. Skinner curled and found a wide-open Tage Thompson for a one-timer that was a bomb. Both Thompson and Skinner are on 29-goal paces over an 82-game schedule.
Buffalo gave up a power play goal to John Tavares, but then the pressure was on again.
The Sabres got into the offensive zone and worked extra hard. The fans got on their feet and the building had energy. Asplund pressured Travis Dermott into a bad turnover right to Thompson. He immediately slid the puck over to a wide-open Skinner, who directed the layup past goalie Joseph Woll, who was making his NHL debut.
The relentless pressure continued, compliments of Kyle Okposo, Anders Bjork and Arttu Ruotsalainen. Okposo kept the puck alive all the way along the back wall, digging it out to Ruotsalainen. Ruotsalainen then set Rasmus Dahlin up for a one-timer from the left point, and two goals in 59 seconds tied the score at 4-4.
Buffalo kept the heat on Woll for another shift or two, and almost took the lead for the first time in the game. However, after a few minutes, the Sabres lost the momentum and it was Toronto’s turn to pressure.
To work that hard to comeback in a game against their arch rivals and get nothing out of it had to sting.
Goaltending was a clear problem in this game for both teams, as Dell was making his Sabres debut. We don’t know where Craig Anderson is in his rehab, but if it gets to the point where two goalies have to play again and Anderson is still hurt, I would think the call would go to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who appears to be coming around with the Rochester Americans.
Luukkonen had a very tough start to the season, but Saturday he recorded his first professional shutout. Two games before that, he stopped 40-of-41 shots for another win.
Jacob Bryson ate up a lot of minutes once again for Granato on Saturday, registering 24:23 of ice-time.
The Sabres have now lost six out of seven games and will be off on Sunday before playing the Penguins on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby is supposed to be back and ready for that game.