BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The back end of the Sabres' back-to-back this weekend yielded one point, but no more. After taking the lead thanks to a Will Butcher goal in the second period, Buffalo lost in a shootout 3-2 at the hands of T.J. Oshie. Buffalo is back in action on Tuesday when they kick off a three-game road stand with a trip to Winnipeg to take on the Jets.
Three observations from Saturday's game:
Spotting the opposition
If you're a glass half full person, I have good news: this year's Sabres don't fold like a chair when they give up their first goal against. If you're a glass half empty person, here's the bad news: Buffalo has shown a propensity for giving up the first tally really, really quickly.
Lars Eller's early goal marked the third time in the last four games that the Sabres gave up a goal within the first five minutes of the contest. Earlier in the year, head coach Don Granato stressed the importance of playing from behind effectively. Lately, t hasn't taken long for his squad to have to do that.
Mika Zibanejad scored within the first five minutes for the Rangers. Teuvo Teravainen did it for the Hurricanes. The Anaheim Ducks couldn't manage a goal until Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano's web gem, but the Sabres never managed to get a lead during that span, either. The last time Buffalo had a jump that early was on December 2nd against the Florida Panthers. Remember how that one turned out?
It's been a while
That Panthers game was the last time Buffalo held a lead before tonight. It had been nine calendar days. It had been over 180 minutes of hockey. And the Sabres were either tied or trailing the entire time. That being said, it would make perfect sense for Buffalo to tighten up after all that time playing even or from behind.
Instead, the Sabres killed off a huge double minor than spanned from the late second period to the early third. Washington still found a tying goal, but Buffalo still kept a hand on the wheel down the stretch as they searched for their first point in the standings in three weeks. They got there largely because of the guy between the pipes.
UPL on the up and up
Last season, there was fear that bringing Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen along too early would ruin his development. Back in October when he was struggling to find his footing with the Amerks, it looked like that could've been the case. Since then, he's found it in the minors.
Now, he's found it in the NHL.
The wins might not be there, but even in the prior two games, Luukkonen had been superb. His sequence late in the second period of the Rangers game might have been the best of his NHL career. His third period against Washington matched it. There's only so much you can ask a goalie to do; especially a young one. And UPL is doing it all for Buffalo right now.
Even in the shootout, the rookie netminder was all alone with the king of shootouts. All year long, Buffalo hasn't had the answer in goal. In part, it was due to a lack of organizational talent. It's also been due to injuries. Once everyone gets healthy, Luukkonen should become a solidified part of that answer.