OPINION: Sabres pull out another road win

Buffalo breaks its three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Predators

Nashville, Tenn. (WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres broke their three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 5-3 win in Nashville over the Predators. However, the victory didn’t come without adversity.

Buffalo lost three-out-of-four games at home, then went onto the road to get another win. This team has clearly shown it is so much better on the road.

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In the first period, I thought the Sabres looked good.

They were fast, they were stretching the Predators out North-to-South, and it got them a goal. Tage Thompson sent a long pass to Jeff Skinner, putting him on a clear breakaway. Skinner deked past goalie Juuse Saros for the lead.

At 5-on-5, the Sabres gave the Preds very little. However, the game was tied after 1-1 after 20 minutes, because Roman Josi scored on the power play from the right circle that went through Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. It was a goal he’d want back.

Buffalo played well to start the second period, as Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka made a difference in their returns to the lineup. Nashville had started to pressure the Sabres and Buffalo was hemmed in, but Quinn got the puck and saw he had Peterka and Dylan Cozens behind one defenseman. The flip to center ice was perfect to Peterka, who stayed onside and sent in Cozens for the goal.

Buffalo’s power play had failed them during the three-game losing streak, but Owen Power found Victor Olofsson from the right circle with a perfect feed, and the one-timer put him on a 34-goal pace for the season.

The Sabres had the two-goal lead and then fell apart. Nashville got two goals in 40 seconds, and Buffalo went to the intermission even at 3-3. The Sabres were outshot in the period 17-9 and were reeling.

This team doesn’t usually panic like past Sabres teams did, and they didn’t on Saturday. Buffalo came out with a solid third period.

Tyson Jost took a very silly slashing penalty, but his teammates were there to pick him up. Kyle Okposo hustled into the offensive left corner and outbattled two Nashville players for the puck. He sent it back to Ilya Lyubushkin at the right point, and Okposo continued to the net. The two made eye contact and Lyubushkin put a shot right where Okposo could tip in the shorthanded, game-winning goal.

The Cozens line wasn’t done on this night.

After the game, Sabres head coach Don Granato called Peterka and Quinn fresh from getting two games off, and they were relentless. Peterka missed two tap-in goals, but he just kept going after the puck. He got it to Quinn in the slot, and he broke his slump of no goals in 13 games.

Luukkonen made 36 saves, and I liked how he fought through traffic to get his position to make saves. It’s something that he’s been working on, and in Saturday’s game, it showed.

In the second period, Luukkonen was strong with a puck that was right in front of the goal line. He didn’t give an inch until Tanner Jeannot pushed his glove and the puck in the net. Of course, it was ruled as no goal.

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Now the Sabres have to fix their horrendous 9-11-2 record at home. The Florida Panthers are next on Monday afternoon before the Sabres go back on the road Tuesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Buffalo is 12-7-0 away from home this season, and are 6-1-0 in their last seven on the road.

If you’re someone thinking about the playoffs, both the Sabres and Florida have 44 points, but Buffalo has three games in hand. A regulation win over the Panthers would put the Sabres two points ahead of them.

Buffalo still has two teams to jump over in the Eastern Conference - Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders - to get to a playoff spot in the Wild Card.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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