OPINION: Three observations: Zibanejad has his day against Sabres

Mika Zibanejad scores a hat-trick, while the Rangers control most of Sunday’s game against the Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres traveled to New York on Saturday, riding high from their 6-4 victory on Friday night over the Boston Bruins, ready to take on a Rangers team just barely clinging to a playoff spot.

The Rangers came out of this one still barely clinging, while the Sabres continue to play out a string of games that will lead them to their 10th-straight playoff-less season.

This one felt out of reach after just 20 or so minutes, with the Rangers going up by three goals early in the second period.

Let's take a look at three observations from Sunday night's 6-3 loss to the Rangers:

1.) Zibanejad has another hot night against Buffalo

Some players just love playing the Sabres. Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad happens to be on of those players.

Zibanejad had his way with the Sabres on Sunday night, scoring an early hat-trick just 22 minutes into the game.

The 28-year-old opened the scoring for the Rangers, finding open space in the zone as four Sabres defensemen skated toward Rangers rookie forward Alexis Lafreniére. Lafreniére found the wide-open Zibanejad, who fired it past Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski just 4:49 into the game.

Zibanejad added another tally late in the first period, again waiting patiently in the slot as Artemi Panarin waited for an opening in the Sabres’ penalty kill coverage. Zibanejad positioned is stick perfectly for the tip, and the puck sailed by Tokarski.

It didn’t take long for Zibanejad to complete his hat-trick early in the second period, as he entered the zone carrying the puck. He faced some resistence from Sabres defenseman Colin Miller, but barely got around him and fired an off-balanced shot that somehow found it's way past Tokarski.

Zibanejad has enjoyed a lot of success against the Sabres this season, with four goals and six points through seven games against Buffalo this year. He'll get one more chance to add more points against the Sabres on Tuesday night.

2.) Reinhart scores another one in a losing effort

Sabres forward Sam Reinhart continues to find the back of the net for the Sabres.

Reinhart scored the Sabres' third goal of the evening to, once again, bring the Sabres within a two-goal deficit. It wouldn't be enough for the Sabres to come back, but it did give Reinhart his team-leading 21st goal of the season.

The 25-year-old hit 20 goals in Buffalo's previous game, scoring a hat-trick against the Bruins. That gave Reinhart his fifth 20-goal season in his six years in the NHL with the Sabres.

Reinhart is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and continuing on his current production path will only mean a rising price tag for the important Sabres center.

3.) Sabres control shot attempt share, but fall behind too early

Sunday night's final score was a bit deceiving, because the Sabres ended up controlling the shot share against the Rangers. However, the Rangers are the ones who ended up with their shot attempts in the back of the net.

Ultimately, the Sabres and Rangers traded high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5, with the Rangers having a slight advantage in that area, 5-4. Both teams found some success on the power play, with the Rangers scoring twice with the man advantage and Buffalo getting one goal of their own.

Victor Olofsson returned to the scoresheet on the power play in this one finally, this time taking a booming shot from a more central location in the zone.

Controlling the shot share in any game is important, but at the end of the day, the shot attempts that end up in the net are the only ones that matter.

It should also be noted that the Sabres played from behind in this one for the most part.


The Sabres will have one night off from game action before getting back to it on Tuesday night against the same Rangers team back at Madison Square Garden.

We'll have the Paul William Beltz Pregame Show for you starting at 6 p.m. ET. hosted by Mike Schopp and the Bulldog. Faceoff is set to take place just minutes after 7 p.m. ET on the radio flagship station of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.

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