Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was perfect yet again as the Buffalo Sabres shutout the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. It’s Luukkonen’s second straight game with a shutout.
The Sabres have now blanked the NHL’s bottom two teams in the standings, ensuring they receive the four points expected of them versus the Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks.
After a scoreless first period, Zemgus Girgensons tipped a seemingly harmless point shot from along the boards by Ryan Johnson in the second. The Sabres followed it up with two goals in the third period – one by JJ Peterka and one by Rasmus Dahlin – to set themselves up with a more comfortable lead.
Although the Sabres dominated the shots (31-19) and shot attempts (64-40) in the game, they did allow some quality rush chances for the Blackhawks. That’s where Luukkonen made his biggest impact.
Early calculations have Luukkonen near 2.5 goals saved above expected, which would obviously be the total shot quality faced from Chicago. What’s perhaps more impressive is that he had to prepare to start two days in a row, with the game pushed back a day.
Ryan Johnson also gets the instant accolades in Thursday’s game, with primary assists on both the Girgensons and Peterka goals. He’s been really impressive in his rookie season so far, and added some offense to his defensive prowess.
Ryan Johnson has 2 assists tonight #LetsGoBuffalo
File him under the sheltered defensemen that have been elite at shutting down the opponent and very good at pushing play up ice. pic.twitter.com/vTwEoM6bIO
— Jason Moser 🏒 (@PuckLuckJay) January 19, 2024
The Sabres had their feet moving for throughout the majority of the game. As a result in a parade to the box for the Blackhawks on Thursday. Chicago took six penalties resulting in five Buffalo powerplays, including a five-minute major from Philipp Kurashev for boarding Erik Johnson.
Erik Johnson remained down on the ice for awhile before eventually heading down the tunnel on his own. Head coach Don Granato said Johnson will be “a little sore” when asked about his status.
The major cost the Blackhawks, as Dahlin threw a shot from the point off a Chicago stick and past goalie Arvid Soderblom for the insurance goal that ended up sealing the win.
The Sabres will close their January homestand against division foe Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. The Lightning are the current holders of the final wild card spot. They are one of the six teams standing between Buffalo and a playoff spot.