BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Jeff Skinner’s return to Raleigh didn’t go according to plan. In his first game back to his former home the Hurricanes blew by the Sabres 4-3. Skinner, Jason Pominville and Kyle Okposo scored for the Sabres, who fall to 23-15-6 with the loss.
Five observations from Friday’s loss:
Three of Carolina’s goals on Friday evening bounced off a member of the Sabres and into their own net. To say the bounces didn’t go in the Sabres favor would be the ultimate understatement. That said, Carolina deserves credit for getting pucks to the net and forcing pressure. You usually don’t get those bounces if you aren’t outworking your opponent.
So how bad were they? It started in the first period when Carter Hutton failed to catch a routine wrist shot from just inside the blue line. The puck hit Hutton’s glove and landed on the top of the net. It then bounced off the top of the net and off Marco Scandella’s stick as he tried batting it away.
In the second period, Sebastian Aho capitalized twice off bounces to give the Hurricanes a 3-2 and then 4-2 lead. His first goal came off a pass that redirected off Rasmus Dahlin’s skate and into the net. Aho’s second goal was eerily similar to his first, this time bouncing off Jake McCabe’s skate and past a helpless Hutton.
Spoiling his return
How perfect would it have been for Jeff Skinner to score a goal in his return to Carolina and skate out of town with two points? Well, that didn’t happen and for Skinner, he’ll have to wait at least another month to try and beat his former team. But don’t blame Skinner for the loss, I thought he was one of the Sabres best players, which should come as no surprise.
The same can’t be said for Tage Thompson, whom I thought struggled in his first game on the Sabres top line with Skinner and captain Jack Eichel. Thompson failed to take advantage of his golden opportunity, making a few careless plays at both ends of the ice.
By the end of the second period, Thompson was bounced off the first line and replaced by Sam Reinhart. Despite his struggles against Carolina, I’ve been impressed with Thompson over the last few weeks. One minor setback on Friday doesn’t mean he should be sent to Rochester or sitting in the press box. It just means maybe he’s not ready for the responsibility to play on the first line.
After missing the last three games the Sabres captain returned to the lineup. That’s the good news. As for the bad news, well, Eichel wasn’t the dominant force we’re used to watching. Should fans be concerned? Absolutely not. It’s his first game back after missing nearly two weeks. I fully expect he’ll be taking over games in the near future.
A game they had to have
We’re a long way from saying a game is a “must win”. But with Tampa Bay on the docket Saturday and Carolina coming off a game on Thursday evening, these were two points the Sabres needed. With Montreal off on Friday, the Sabres will hang on to the final playoff spot with a one-point edge over the Canadiens. Buckle up, the next 38 games are going to be very stressful.