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Sabres open west Canada trip with 4-3 loss to Calgary Flames

Posted at 11:43 PM, Dec 05, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Buffalo's comeback bid fell short to start their four-day road trip. The Calgary Flames beat the Sabres 4-3 on Thursday night. A Sam Reinhart deflection started the scoring, but four unanswered goals from Calgary created too big of a hole for Buffalo to climb out of. The Sabres' trip continues in Vancouver on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Three observations from Thursday's game:

Powerless power play

Before tonight's game, head coach Ralph Krueger talked about wanting, and needing, more from special teams. He didn't get that from either unit; but the Sabres' power play was abysmal. The lowlight of the game was a Henri Jokiharju turnover at the blue line that led to a shorthanded goal for Tobias Rieder.

A healthy Rasmus Dahlin is the first choice to be the power play quarterback. Colin Miller has experience in that department, as well. So does Rasmus Ristolainen. Earlier this season, Ristolainen's 6'4", 220-pound frame was used as the body in front of the net on the power play. I'm not saying that look is the answer, but going just one for eight and giving up a goal with a man advantage certainly isn't, either.

Sitting back on the penalty kill

Buffalo also struggled when they were shorthanded; the Flames' first power play led to a bar-down goal from Johnny Gaudreau. They don't call him Johnny Hockey for nothing. But after a save from Linus Ullmark, a Sabre couldn't get to the rebound in the corner. When Gaudreau corralled the loose puck, he was allowed to walk right into the circle for his shot.

This penalty kill unit used to be an aggressive group. They'd press out to the half boards and get involved below the goal line. Staying packed in certainly has its advantages; it helps clog passing lanes and conserves the skaters' energy. Gaudreau never even looked to pass; once Jimmy Vesey went out to the point, he had a wide open lane.

Backchecking makes all the difference.

Getting back on defense quickly and effectively could've saved the Sabres at least one goal tonight; if not two. The Flames' third goal of the game was a four-on-two as Calgary entered the offensive zone. Because there was no one to take away the trailer, Sean Monahan was left wide open on the give and go to the low circle.

The other instance where it could've been saved was on Tobias Rieder's shorthanded goal. It's far from a guarantee when a player is all alone and has a full head of steam; but Jimmy Vesey's breakaway in the early third period was spoiled by a great hustle play from Calgary.