For the second game in a row the Buffalo Sabres played poorly in the first two periods and lost by a score of 3-2. The Sabres were facing a rookie goaltender, Scott Clemmensen, and only managed to put 11 shots on him through two periods. Thanks to some great saves by Ryan Miller early on the Sabres were only down 1-0 heading into the third period. Buffalo came out flying in the third and put 16 shots on net. With the score tied 2-2 late in the third Henrik Tallinder took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. The Devils scored on that power play to go ahead for good, 3-2.
I was shocked at how poorly the Sabres played in the first and second period. With the exception of Maxim Afinogenov and Ryan Miller the Sabres looked overwhelmed by the Devils. New Jersey deserves credit for their excellent fore-checking. They gave the Sabres defensemen fits the entire game. The Sabres defensemen looked like rookies tonight. Defense was a concern for the Sabres going into the season and tonight highlighted why. They turned the puck over in their own end and at the opposite blue line and had difficulty knocking the Devils off the puck down low. If that continues other teams are going to take advantage of it the same way New Jersey did tonight.
New Jersey was able to get on the scoreboard first when Briere and Numminen both let former Sabre, Erik Rasmussen get position in front of the net and one-time a pass from behind the net past Miller. The Devils went up 2-0 when Rory Fitzpatrick misplayed the puck at the Devil’s blue line and allowed a New Jersey breakout. Scott Gomez fired a shot past Miller from up high that Miller probably should have saved. He wasn’t screened and he was square to the shooter – he should have stopped it.
After starting the game 0-4 on the power play the Sabres scored on their fifth attempt. Briere made a nice move to the net from along the goal line and tried to pass the puck through the Devil’s crease. It ended up deflecting into the net off a Devil’s skate. The second Sabres goal was the result of some great checking by Hecht and Grier. Grier ended up with the puck behind the Devil’s net and backhanded a pass out to Chris Drury who one-timed it past Clemmensen for his first goal of the season.
The momentum was on the Sabres side until Henrik Tallinder shot the puck over the glass in his own end and took a delay of game penalty with six minutes left in the third. New Jersey scored on that power play when Brylin redirected a Rafalski shot from the point past Miller. The Sabres continued to apply pressure but couldn’t get the tying goal past Clemmensen, even after pulling Miller for the extra attacker.
The big picture for the Sabres is that they have lost two games in a row for the first time all season and are now only two games over .500 at 6-4. Their schedule doesn’t get easier anytime soon. They’ll be on the road again tomorrow night against the Islanders who are a dangerous 5-5 team. With Marty Biron scheduled to get his first start of the season it could end up being a three game losing streak if he’s rusty. The Sabres can avoid that by getting back to fundamentals and start shooting the puck on net more. Prior to the past two games the Sabres were averaging 35-40 shots on net. Now they are passing the puck around and trying to play “fancy” hockey. As a result, their shots on net are down and they are losing. Lindy Ruff needs to get them firing the puck from all angles again and swarming to the net for loose rebounds. That’s how they are going to win games.