BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Despite a two-goal lead in the final minutes of the second period the Buffalo Sabres once again came up short, allowing three unanswered goals to the Edmonton Oilers in a 4-3 loss. Jack Eichel [twice] and Casey Mittelstadt scored for the Sabres, who fall to 30-28-8 on the season.
5 Observations from Monday's loss:
For most of the second period, the Sabres looked like they would have a lead heading into the final period. Then the Sabres had their most recent collapse, allowing three Oilers goals in a 3:26 span to close out the second period.
It started with a perfect pass from Connor McDavid, who found former Sabre Zach Kassian uncovered to make it a 3-2 game. Seconds later the Oilers struck again on a cannon from Darnell Nurse, beating Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark from the slot. Less than a minute after the Oilers tied the game Edmonton took the lead on a goal from Kyle Brodziak, who snuck a puck past Ullmark to make it a 4-3 Edmonton lead heading into the final period.
"I'm just going to say it again, you cannot play 55 minutes in this league," Phil Housley said after the game. "Those are two points that should've been in our pocket."
To say these types of collapses are concerning would be an understatement but at this point, they shouldn't come as a surprise. If the Sabres have proved anything this season it's that they can't play a full 60-minutes. That was evident once again on Monday and cost the Sabres two precious points.
As a pair, Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella didn't have their best outing. In the final minutes of the second period, the duo was on the ice for two of Edmonton's three goals. Ristoalinen, while not completely at fault, was also on the ice for Edmonton's first goal with the Sabres on the power play. With Jake McCabe likely out for the rest of the season and Zach Bogosian day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the Sabres are going to need better play on the blue line -- especially from Ristolainen and Scandella.
Deserving some of the blame
After a great start to the season, both Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have struggled to provide consistency in net for the Sabres. The two goaltenders have both had solid outings over the past few months but neither has been able to separate themselves and string together a few overly impressive starts. In seven of their last 10 games, the Sabres have allowed at least four goals. Plenty of the blame falls on failed defensive assignments and sloppy play but the goaltenders also deserve some of the blame.
Like it or not, every time Eichel and McDavid go head-to-head there will be a storyline dating back to the 2015 NHL Draft.
In the first period, Eichel got his team on the board as he capitalized on an Oilers defenseman who didn't have a stick. Eichel picked up the loose puck and took it to the net, firing a wrist shot just under the crossbar and past Edmonton goaltender Mikko Koskinen.
At the end of the period, the Sabres captain scored again, converting on a 2-on-1, beating Koskinen with a wrist-shot just inside the post. The goal was Eichel's 25th of the season, matching a career-high he set last season. This year, however, Eichel tallied his 25th goal of the season in four fewer games.
At this pace, Eichel is going to flirt with 90 points this season if he plays in every game until the end of the season [15 more games]. For some perspective, before this season, Eichel's best year statistically was last season when he finished with 64 points in 67 games.
What could've been
Tickets to tonight's game between the McDavid captained Oilers and the Eichel led Sabres were selling for less than $10 on StubHub before puck drop. If you would've said the above sentence after the 2015 draft most fans would've called you crazy.
As the two clubs continue to try and climb out of the league basement it's clear that both the Oilers and Sabres have a long way to go. McDavid and Eichel are surely important pieces and players that can be built around. However, both teams lack secondary scoring and consistency on the blue line.