It was again the Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen show for the Buffalo Sabres, as he turned away all 28 shots from the San Jose Sharks. It’s Luukkonen’s second career shutout, as the Sabres sealed the deal in a 3-0 victory.
A scoreless first period for both teams started the game about as slow as the blizzard traffic this weekend. It took until over halfway through the game before Casey Mittelstadt dragged one into the high slot and past Kaapo Kahkonen to get the Sabres on the board.
Alex Tuch was able to convert a one-timer into a goal on some nifty powerplay puck movement a few minutes later, and Buffalo was in the driver seat ever since.
Jordan Greenway sealed the game with an empty netter with 3:26 left in the third period.
Luukkonen was without a doubt the most impactful player for the Sabres against the Sharks. When the game seemed to be in a lull and San Jose would pop a scoring chance, the Finnish netminder was smooth, steady, and in position to make the save.
In terms of metrics, the Sabres and Sharks both posted slightly above three expected goals. That puts Luukkonen over three goals-saved above expected by turning away every shot thrown at him. It was his second straight stellar performance.
Mittelstadt assisted on the second and third goals, resulting in a three point day. It’s his third three-point game of the season, and expands his lead in points for the team.
The Sabres powerplay was able to convert one of their two opportunities, and Jack Quinn seems to give the top unit a whole different dynamic. Meanwhile, San Jose was foiled on both of their attempts.
The Sharks had some sustained zone pressure with the man-advantage, including one cross-ice setup just as the powerplay expired that Luukkonen was quick to slide into position on. With even-strength play about even on both ends, the ability to produce on special teams proved to be a difference-maker.
The Sabres continue their January homestand Wednesday when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town. It’s a great opportunity to string together wins as the Blackhawks are the league’s second-lowest team in the standings.