Despite three goals in the final ten minutes of the third period, the Buffalo Sabres first trip to Las Vegas was a flop, falling to the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 in overtime. Evander Kane scored the game-tying goal with nine seconds remaining, batting a puck out of mid-air into the Golden Knights' net. After chances at both ends of the ice Golden Knights forward David Perron ended the game in overtime with a perfect wrist shot, beating Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson.
Five observations from Tuesday's loss:
Late push isn't enough
The third period was the Sabres' best frame of the evening and it wasn't even close. No exaggeration, it was probably their best period of the season.
For almost the entire period the Sabres were generating solid pressure and chances, something we didn't see in the first two periods. The proof is in the pudding with three goals in the final ten minutes from O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart, and Kane. If the Sabres can replicate the effort we saw in the final 20 minutes on Tuesday they *should* start to win more games. If they don't, well, you know what will happen.
What did you think was going to happen?
So....many....penalties. On Tuesday it seemed like the Sabres were killing a never-ending Golden Knights power play, especially in the second period. Eventually, the Golden Knights made the Sabres pay, converting on their fifth man advantage of the evening.
Killing four-of-five penalties doesn't sound too bad but Vegas could've easily had two or three more goals while on the power play. Before the west coast trip, the penalty kill was one of the few bright spots for the Sabres. In the last few games, it has been an area that needs to be improved.
O'Reilly bounces back
On 7 Eyewitness News at six o'clock [how's that for a plug?] I was asked who has been the Sabres biggest disappointment so far this season. I responded Ryan O'Reilly.
No, that does not mean he has been their worst player, it just means that for someone so talented I think he's struggled early on. I doubt he was watching unless he was streaming our newscast on the 7ABC app [another plug], but on Tuesday he had arguably his best game of the young season.
At both ends of the ice O'Reilly looked comfortable cycling the puck in the offensive zone and playing tight defense at the Sabres own end. He was rewarded in the first period with his first goal of the season on a wrist shot that snuck past Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban. In the third period, O'Reilly scored his second goal of the night and the season, firing a pretty wrist shot into the top corner. Tuesday was a step in the right direction for O'Reilly, who needs to reemerge as one of the Sabres top players.
Sabres need third period/OT Ristolainen
Rasmus Ristolainen is paid to be the Sabres top defenseman. Until the third period on Tuesday, Ristolainen had been anything but. To his credit, in the final 20 minutes against the Golden Knights, he somewhat bounced back. Ristolainen made a very nice play with two minutes remaining to get a wrist shot near Reinhart's stick, who deflected the puck past Subban. In overtime the Sabres defenseman perfectly played a Golden Knights two-on-one, blocking a cross-ice pass with his stick.
Earlier in the game, however, Ristolainen struggled. It started with the first Vegas Golden Knights goal when Ristolainen tried sending a pass up the wall. The play turned into a turnover, quickly became a Golden Knights two-on-one.
Every defenseman will make mistakes but what is concerning is that this has seemed to become a trend for Ristolainen this season. For the responsibility and ice time he is given, Ristolainen has to be better.
Hockey in Vegas is awesome
For those who don't know, T-Mobile Arena is only a stone's throw away from the Vegas strip. If you've been to Vegas, the arena is right behind the Monte Carlo and New York New York. It's an awesome location for an arena and so far it seems like the city and the thousands of tourists who fill Las Vegas every day are embracing the NHL. I wasn't in Vegas on Tuesday but I can't wait to experience a game for myself.