Sabres score, but can't win

March 16, 2019 - 11:14 pm
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Raleigh, NC (WGR 550) - The first period in Carolina on Saturday is everything of what’s wrong with the Buffalo Sabres. The blue and gold came out flying and got rewarded when Jeff Skinner got some puck-luck after some hard work by the Jack Eichel line and the Sabres shutout streak was broken at 199:58.

It was also Skinner’s first goal in 14 games plus he tied a career high with 37 goals.

Eichel was coming off his two-game suspension and was flying. Curtis McElhinney just barely made a save on a 2-on-1 and Eichel made a great hustle play when he jumped up at the blue line to keep the puck in and found Sam Reinhart. Reinhart set up Skinner open in the slot. He paused, took his time and ripped it square off the post.

The Sabres then had a breakdown and they crumbled for the rest of the period. This is exactly what’s wrong with a team that may be the most fragile in the NHL. Jordan Martinook’s shot should’ve been easily stopped by Linus Ullmark, but he let it squeak through his pads and the puck laid in the crease. Most teams that aren’t named the Buffalo Sabres have guys around the net and the Hurricanes are no different. Lucas Wallmark stepped in behind Ullmark as two Sabres stood and watched and the game was tied.

I wanted to see if the Sabres would respond and they didn’t. From that point forward, it looked like the Colorado game all over again. They couldn’t get the puck out of the zone, the passing was horrendous, there was no offensive zone time including a 2:00 power play and they gave up the final nine shots of the period.

One bad play and they went from dominating the game to a panicked team.

It took the Sabres almost half the second period to finally settle down and get back to their game. While they were waiting, Jack Eichel left his man off to the side of the net and Andrei Svechnikov got an easy layup.

The Sabres went over 15 minutes of clock time without a shot before finally finding their legs and the offensive zone again.

Once they did, Nylander was eye-to-eye on McElhinney, but instead of shooting, he passed it to a wide open Conor Sheary who fanned on an empty net. Nylander also seemed to have a lot of net on a rebound, but McElhinney got across to make the save on the backhand shot.

Less than a minute later, Evan Rodrigues was stopped on a breakaway.

Things were going well and then Ullmark lets in another horrible goal from the left wing wall. That just absolutely can’t go in, especially when your team is struggling to score goals.

Buffalo really came on in the second half of the second period and wound up with 13 shots, but again, you’re not going to win with that kind of goaltending. Ullmark was asked during the postgame show if there’s any reason why he hasn’t played as well in the second half of the season as the first and he said if he knew, he’d fix it.

The Sabres had a chance to cut the lead to 3-2 when Brandon Montour made a great move to cut into the zone. He set up an open Casey Mittelstadt down the slot, but was stopped by McElhinney.

This was a game where the Sabres produced more Grade-A scoring chances than they have in weeks, but it still only produced two goals.

Buffalo has now lost nine straight games to Carolina.

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