BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It was a game of call and response between the Sabres and Canucks on Saturday evening. Every time Vancouver jumped out to a comfortable lead, the Sabres erased it. It happened in the second and third periods. The Sabres couldn't pick up the additional point in overtime, though. J.T. Miller scored the game winner for Vancouver to make it a 6-5 final. The Sabres play again tomorrow against the Edmonton Oilers at 8:00 p.m.
Three observations from Saturday's game:
The roaring twenties
Part of the Sabres' surprise success in October was the play of what many saw as the fourth line: Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, and Kyle Okposo. As they started putting pucks into the net, head coach Ralph Kruger praised the line as a whole. The return of a healthy Kyle Okposo led to the return of a more conventional lineup with 12 forwards and six defensemen; and it ushered in the return of that line.
All three of them picked up a point in Saturday's loss: Okposo scored a goal in his first game back since sustaining a concussion on November 16th. In the third period, just when it looked like the Sabres might've been down for the count, Zemgus Girgensons scored his fourth goal of the year with an assist from Johan Larsson. Call them the fourth line, the roaring twenties, or the LOG line, but they're back.
Net presence on offense
There are way more ugly goals than pretty goals in the NHL. Two of the Canucks' goals were ugly goals right on the doorstep because someone was in the right place at the right time during a mess in front. The Sabres have noticeably lacked that on the power play, but it's at least becoming more common at even strength.
What originally looked like a Rasmus Ristolainen goal was later determined to be a deflection by Sam Reinhart. He's got eleven tallies on the year now, and that's not his first that's a deflection. Ugly goals get the job done just as well as pretty goals; and they're much more frequent when a player is in front of the net at the right times.
It seems like the Sabres are always on the wrong end of these types of goals. The final minute of of the first and second periods are the most dangerous individual minutes in the early stages of a hockey game. A tie game versus a deficit, or a lead versus a tie, makes all the difference going into the locker room. Plus, in the third period, they can quite literally extend the game.
Victor Olofsson's power play goal with 44 seconds to go in the second period changed approach to the start of the third. Instead of sitting back and nursing a lead, Vancouver still had to press on and look for opportunities to score; the Sabres didn't have to press the matter any more than they normally would. It changed the complexion of the game. The Sabres' second instance came from Marcus Johansson with 59 seconds left in regulation and got Buffalo a point from the loss.