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Five Observations: Sabres fall to Rangers 3-2 in overtime

Rangers Sabres Hockey
Posted at 10:06 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 22:06:13-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For the third time in the last four games, the Sabres needed more than 60 minutes to settle the score. But after a career night from goalie Linus Ullmark, Buffalo fell short 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers. The Sabres will stay at home for a weekend series against the New Jersey Devils; the first of those two games is on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

Five observations from Thursday night's game:

Getting settled with the man advantage

It's no secret; possession time during a power play is crucial to a power play's success. But when Buffalo loses the draw to start a power play, it feels like they're playing catch-up for nearly half of the man advantage.

Buffalo still cashed in thanks to Sam Reinhart early in the third, and kept the power play's streak alive. But more often than not on Thursday night, the first unit was on the ice for nearly a minute before finally settling into a decent look. That's too much ice time wasted for a power play with that much potential.

Figuring out the zone entries

Whatever the Sabres tried to do to enter the offensive zone, it wasn't working against the Rangers. New York won the physical battle on Thursday night, and they also dominated shot totals and time of possession. And it's because the extra pass was almost always an unnecessary one.

Conversely, whenever a Sabre skated the puck into the zone, the defensemen and back checking were able to collapse and take the puck back the other way. Anytime a forward tried to get a jump, the puck was mishandled in the neutral zone. You can't stay on offense if you can't get to that third of the ice.

Standing on his head

Linus Ullmark's body language spelled out defeat when Artemi Panarin took back the lead for the Rangers in the second period. He had been standing on his head all night as the backstop to a defense that fumbled the puck in prime real estate and a group of forwards that mustered nine shots through the first two periods.

Cross-ice passes. Shorthanded chances. Mishandled pucks. Feeds in front. Power play looks. You name it, Ullmark stopped it tonight. He kept Buffalo in this game, earned them this point in the standings, and kept it from getting ugly.

All it took was one

For the Sabres' first six games, it seemed like Jack Eichel couldn't buy a goal. After being told by a former teammate to shoot more last season, the results often kept Buffalo in games, or led the team to a win.

Now that Eichel finally got the monkey off his back Tuesday night, he was able to pick up another one on Thursday very late in the first period. The feed from longtime linemate Sam Reinhart was the highlight of the play. But the goals should keep coming for Eichel, which will in turn open things up for whoever is on either of his wings moving forward.

Buying time in overtime

Quite frankly, the Sabres were lucky to get a point out of this game. They were easily out-played, out-possessed, and out-shot through the first two periods. Linus Ullmark made 35 saves. But after a middle-of-the-road first possession in overtime, Buffalo sat back waiting for the shootout.

The creativity of this group of forwards, especially with all the new additions, makes them fun to watch in a shootout. But when you sit back and pass it around the neutral zone to try to get to that point, that's when you invite an Alexis Lafreniere game winner.