Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights to town on Thursday for their first matchup of the season.
Jack Eichel made his second return to Buffalo a little more than a year following the blockbuster trade that sent him to Vegas. He and the Golden Knights came to town also riding an eight-game winning streak.
The Golden Knights had complete control of the game in the first period after going up 1-0 early on with a goal from Chandler Stephenson. The Sabres were able to take some momentum later in the period when Tage Thompson scored his ninth goal of the season, tying the game at 1-1.
The second period proved to be a very back-and-forth affair.
Vegas took the lead back early with a goal from Phil Kessel, while Casey Mittelstadt scored a beautiful goal on the power play tying things again at 2-2. Near the end of the period, Paul Cotter gave the Golden Knights the lead once more, one they wouldn't relinquish.
A six-goal third period awaited these two teams to finish off this game. Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored to lengthen his team's lead, while Eichel was finally able to break through to make the score, 5-2.
Thompson pulled the Sabres back within two goals with his second goal of the night, but Eichel soon followed with a second goal of his own that made the score 6-3.
Rasmus Asplund scored a shorthanded goal for the Sabres to close the gap once more, but it was too little, too late.
Eichel capped off his impressive third period with an empty-net goal to complete the hat-trick and a four-point night. The former Sabres captain was finally able to get his proper revenge in Buffalo after being denied the opportunity last season.
Here are this game's three observations:
1.) Offensive onslaught
Vegas has one of, if not the most potent offenses in the NHL, and the Sabres were on the receiving end of it for all three period in Thursday night's game. The Golden Knights came into this game with a record of 12-2-0, good enough for the best mrk in the NHL.
Buffalo was able to contain the offensive power of Vegas at times, but clearly lacked in other moments. While shots were almost even - Vegas with 36, Buffalo with 35 - the Golden Knights had more high-danger chances.
These high-danger chances ultimately led to the Golden Knights' victory. Too many turnovers and times where the team was caught out of position led to golden opportunities that weren't going to be squandered.
2.) Rebound control
Goaltender Eric Comrie was an exciting signing for the Sabres this offseason. He came in as a goaltender trying to prove himself as a starter after having great numbers his whole career as a backup with the Winnipeg Jets. He also signed with a team desperately searching for something new in the goaltending position.
While he started out as a clear favorite for the starting role, things have taken a turn as of late. Over the past four games, Comrie's rebound control has been less than desirable, and has led to multiple goals-against.
A healthy defensive corps would certainly help Comrie more effectively clear the puck and eliminate secondary chances. However, there are times where a goalie needs to make a clean save, and that hasn't been happening at a consistent rate as of late.
3.) Sloppy turnovers
The Sabres were their own worst enemy on Thursday night.
Vegas recorded 11 takeaways on the night, which killed offensive momentum for the Sabres. It even provided the Golden Knights with Grade-A opportunities offensively on multiple occasions.
Some of these turnovers lead to sustained offensive pressure, breakaways, or odd-man rushes for the visitors. These also led to sloppy entrances into the offensive zone and a lack of offensive chances for the Sabres when they were able to break the puck out of their own end.
The team has no one to blame but themselves in this respect, as they need to simply play smarter with the puck. This is a fixable error, but one that needs to be addressed quickly if the team is to break their losing ways.
The Sabres will next host the Boston Bruins on Saturday evening for their first matchup of the season. Boston currently sits at second place in the league with a record of 12-2-0.
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. EST with pregame starting at 6 p.m. EST with Brian Koziol and Paul Hamilton on the radio home of the Buffalo Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.