The big question heading into Thursday night’s game between the hometown Buffalo Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks was, which team will show up? The Sabres have a horrendous record for Thursday night games, conversely, they have also shut out the Ducks in all the previous 32 meetings dating back to the Dominik Hasek (3x) era.
However, the Sabres who have been living via the comeback far too long, found themselves in the same situation once again. Unlike the previous game where the 3rd period was kind to the Sabres in their come from behind victory over the San Jose Sharks Monday night, it was anything but, in this game.
Ducks forward Corey Perry who coming into the game with a mere 2 goals in his last 12 games, and none in his last six, found the back of the net to open the scoring with just three seconds left in the 1st period. The Sabres allowed Perry to skate all the way around the net and into the slot before firing the shot that beat goalie Robin Lehner. The goal was Perry’s 10th of the season.
Buffalo scored the lone goal in the 2nd to tie the score off the stick of Jack Eichel. It was an odd turn of events that turned out in our favor. Starting goalie John Gibson was forced to leave the game with equipment issues, however, the first shot he faced in his return to the crease was a rocket fired at him by Eichel for his 13th from Kyle Okposo and Ryan O’Reilly. I don’t think Gibson saw it, nor was he ready.
The Ducks took over the game in the 3rd scoring three unanswered before Buffalo added a late goal that gave them some hope for another comeback. However, time and an empty netter sealed the deal for Anaheim in this one.
The Ducks scored with less than a minute to play in the period when Rickard Rakell fired his 22nd into the open side of the net after a boom-boom passing play that included Corey Perry and Hampus Lindholm. A little less than six minutes later Antoine Vermette with his 8th increased the Ducks lead to 3-1 with assists going to Brandon Montour and Hampus Lindholm.
Then at 10:11 of the period Corey Perry scored his 2nd of the game and 11th of the season to raise the score to 4-1 Anaheim. The helpers went to Rikard Rakell and Cam Fowler.
The Sabres and their fans felt a bit of déjà vu at this point being down by the same score just 48 hours prior. Can they climb back again? One goal at a time, they say. With less than two minutes left to play Rasmus Ristolainen scored his 5th from Justin Bailey and Sam Reinhart to close the gap to 4-2.
Unfortunately, that was as close as it got at that point. Because with the goalie on the bench the Sabres’ attempt to score more goals backfired leaving Andrew Cogliano a gaping cage to fire the dagger into and seal the Ducks victory at 5-2. The goal was Cogliano’s 11th from Ryan Kesler and Logan Shaw.
The Sabres before this loss had gone 6-0-1 in their last seven home games, marking the team’s longest home point streak since the team went 6-0-2 in eight home games from Dec. 10, 2013 to Jan. 9, 2014. As the old saying goes, and it fits this team well for most of the season, “Good teams find a way to win, while poor teams find a way to lose.” The Sabres can’t fall into a hole and consistently expect there to be a ladder waiting for them use to climb out on every night. Until they find a way to control their game over sixty minutes I’m afraid that dilemma will continue.
The Sabres next battle will be Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto, Canada. The game start is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.