BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — After being shut out on Tuesday night, it took 55 minutes for the Sabres to find the net tonight. Rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen kept Buffalo in it with 29 saves, but it wasn't enough.
Early tallies from Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere proved to be enough for New York to win 2-1. A wild sequence late in the game saw a goal be reviewed and confirmed; but an offside challenge by the Rangers took it back off the board.
Three observations from Friday's game:
Helping out the netminder
This goes beyond goal support. Some nights, there hasn't been enough of that either. But what I'm talking about are the bounces and back door looks that a goalie can't always find.
The Rangers' first goal came off a terrible bounce. A Sabre managed to get into a passing lane on the penalty kill, but the bounce went right to Mika Zibanejad. The second was a back door rebound that's tougher to avoid, but is still avoidable.
On one hand, you could chalk it up to the puck luck, or lack thereof, that has plagued the Sabres for the better part of the last decade. On the other, it was also a lack of awareness around the crease and in close quarters tonight.
Struggling at the dot
This is really nothing new for the Sabres. Even in prior seasons when there were bigger names up the middle for Buffalo, it was still a concern. Their last season over 50% was the 2017-18 campaign.
Just like the overall expectations going into this season, some things are going to get worse before they get better. Tage Thompson has shown plenty of potential, but he used to play wing. Dylan Cozens started his rookie year as a wing.
The most seasoned option at center for this young squad's scoring lines is Casey Mittelstadt. And he just had surgery on an upper body injury. Faceoffs aren't a direct measurable for overall success, but tonight's clip certainly didn't help.
Recovering from a slow start
If the first period was any indicator of the two that would follow, the Sabres were going to be supremely out-skated and outmatched. New York doubled Buffalo's shot total for a 12-6 lead in that category when they went into the locker room.
Then, the Sabres grew some legs. They got 13 shots on goal in the second period. They kept pace in the third period won the shot battle 37-31, andt lit the lamp for the first time since this past Saturday.
Back-to-backs are never easy. But in the four that the Sabres have had this year, they've gotten at least one point out of three of them. Buffalo is back on home ice again tomorrow night for a 7:00 puck drop with the Washington Capitals.