5 Observations: Sabres stomp Devils 5-1 thanks to second period swarm

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 09:19:27-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — 14 different players tallied a point in the second period as the Buffalo Sabres turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday evening. Jeff Skinner, C.J. Smith, Casey Mittelstadt, Jake McCabe, and Lawrence Pilut scored for the Sabres, who improve to 23-14-6 on the season.

5 Observations from Tuesday's win:

Second Period Swarm

For my money, the second period against the Devils on Tuesday was the Sabres best period of the season. After failing to solve Keith Kinkaid in the first 20 minutes, the Sabres found the back of the net an incredible five times in the middle frame, their most goals in a single period since March 31, 2018, against the Nashville Predators. Don't worry, that stat surprised me too.

Buffalo was all over New Jersey from the start of the second, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead after just four minutes. From that point on the Sabres never looked back and spent most of the next 16 minutes generating chances. If it weren't for a couple huge saves from Kinkaid, it's not unrealistic to think the Sabres could've scored seven goals in the second.

You always remember your first

C.J. Smith and Lawrence Pilut will always remember Tuesday's win against the Devils.

Just two and a half minutes after Jeff Skinner opened the scoring for the Sabres, Smith squeaked a shot past Kinkaid to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead. The play had to be reviewed because the puck barely crossed the goal line. And when I say barely, I mean barely.

If Smith can turn into a productive second or third line player the Sabres will be elated. In six NHL games, the 24-year-old winger has one goal and one assist. For much of the last two seasons, Smith has been the most productive player in Rochester [AHL]. Six NHL games are far too small of a sample size to predict how his future might shape out but his goal against the Devils gave Sabres fans a reason to smile Tuesday.

The same can be said for Pilut, who also scored his first NHL goal in his 12th game with the Sabres. The 23-year-old defenseman fired what looked to be a harmless wrist shot towards the net in the dying minutes of the middle frame, but it snuck through traffic and beat Kinkaid. As every youth hockey coach can attest, when you get pucks to the net, good things happen.

#29 on the season

Watching Jeff Skinner open his hips while skating full-speed to create space and then fire a shot top-corner is a thing of beauty. With his 29th goal of the season, Skinner is now just one goal behind Alex Ovechkin [30 goals] for the league lead. With Eichel out of the lineup, Skinner has been one of the Sabres most noticeable players, proving he doesn't need the Sabres captain to produce. That said, when Eichel returns, I'd put the two of them back together with Sam Reinhart on the right side.

Without Jack

All things considered, splitting the four games Jack Eichel missed isn't terrible. With wins against Florida and New Jersey and losses to New York [he left halfway through the first period] and Boston, Buffalo picked up some valuable points without their best player in the lineup. Although nothing is official, Eichel has started getting more work at practice and appears to be nearing a return to the lineup.

Hanging on

With the Sabres win against New Jersey and the Islanders' loss to Carolina, the Sabres climb up the rankings and now hold the first wild-card spot [52 points]. The Islanders have two games in hand on the Sabres but without Eichel in the lineup, Tuesday's win against the Devils is important.