It wasn’t pretty early. Shades of last night’s duster were creeping into the minds of all watching. However, the Buffalo Sabres had other ideas in their 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night.
Anze Kopitar was honored before the game and fittingly scored the first goal on a nice feed from Adrian Kempe. A couple minutes later, JJ Peterka batted a rebound in on a Dylan Cozens shot on the rush to tie it.
Then it got ugly for the Sabres, with questionable goals from high in the offensive zone by Kempe and Pierre-Luc Dubois found their way past Devon Levi. It seemed like another case of the Sabres folding, but Buffalo was able to find a spark.
Peterka cashed in again on a breakaway, Jack Quinn ripped a wrister past Cam Talbot, and the Sabres went into the third period even with the Kings.
The third period belonged to Buffalo, as Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens found the back of the net. Levi was able to shut the door on numerous high-danger attempts from the Kings, sealing the win for the Sabres.
JJ Peterka gets clear first-star honors in this one, as he was involved in great play after great play as the game wore on. His line, along with Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn, accounted for four of the five Buffalo goals.
In a game where the shot quality was heavy in favor of the Kings thanks to some great high danger chances, Peterka managed a 60% expected goals-for percentage at even-strength thanks to some great transition play back he and Quinn.
Also added to Peterka’s game resume were not one, not two, but three penalties drawn. His feet were moving all night, and the powerplays earned are evidence of that. He completely flipped the game in the Sabres’ favor.
Connor Clifton provided the turning point in the game early in the second period, when a nice cross-ice pass to Trevor Moore looked to be a sure-fire goal with a yawning cage. Clifton was able to get his stick on the sliding puck, slipping it just wide of the net.
One play certainly doesn’t make the full difference in an eight-goal game. However, keeping the Sabres within two goals has a major impact on the psyche on the team and the approach of the rest of the game.
The Sabres have one more game remaining on the California road trip. They will face the San Jose Sharks Saturday at 4pm eastern time before resting for an entire week heading into the All-Star break. The Sabres shutout the Sharks last week at home, and will look to finish January with seven wins in 11 games.