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Sabres Win 7-2 Over Eichel-less Vegas

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Vegas Golden Knights Buffalo Sabres game recap

In one of the most entertaining games at home all season, the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in a decided fashion, 7-2. The Sabres had a massive 83 shot attempts in the game, as every player in red and black posted positive on-ice Corsi percentages. The Golden Knights iced a depleted lineup due to injury, including scratching former Sabre Jack Eichel.

It’s Buffalo’s fifth win in their last six games, as the powerplay and penalty kill are starting to support quality even strength play. When all three phases mesh, and in this case score, the victories will come at a much higher rate.

Must Read:¬†Sabres’ Powerplay Forces Overtime Against Lightning; Wins It 3-2

Jeff Skinner opened the scoring less than two minutes into the first period. He made a slick steal of the puck in the high slot and spun around to fire past Logan Thompson into the net. Despite some quality chances on both ends, it was the only goal of the opening frame.

The Sabres struck quickly again in the second period. Dylan Cozens stole a botched pass by Shea Theodore, walked in, and scored on the shorthanded breakaway. That same powerplay resulted in a Brendan Brisson goal for Vegas, keeping the Sabres modest. When William Karlsson scored the next goal about two and a half minutes later to tie it, Buffalo’s psyche was challenged.

From that point on, the Sabres were relentless. Consistent zone pressure kept the Golden Knights on their heels, and Zemgus Girgensons was able to regain the lead for Buffalo before the end of the period.

The third period saw even-strength goals from Kyle Okposo and Owen Power, a Casey Mittelstadt powerplay goal, and a second shorthanded tally for Cozens.

Add a third-period scrap from former Golden Knight Peyton Krebs for good measure, and the hometown fans were thoroughly entertained throughout the night.

Impact Players

Every Sabres player winning the Corsi battle over their Golden Knights counterpart is impressive, but Tage Thompson’s line completely dominated. Thompson recorded over a 90% expected goals-for percentage when on the ice. Vegas’ answer of Chandler Stephenson, Ivan Barbashev, and Michael Amadio couldn’t handle the mismatch.

Oddly enough, Thompson, Jordan Greenway, and Alex Tuch ended up scoreless on the night. Keeping their opponents hemmed in the zone and on their heels were their biggest contributions to a seven-goal output.

Dylan Cozens deserves some love for his two shorthanded goals. He drew high praise from head coach Don Granato postgame, who attributed the new-look penalty kill to Cozens stepping into the role.

“It’s not as stressful a situation as it may have been a couple of months ago for Dylan,” Granato said. “Now he can jump into some offensive opportunities [on the PK].”

The Difference

The Sabres have been getting a lot of shots at home recently. It’s cashing in on their scoring chances has been a lingering issue. They were very opportunistic on Saturday, scoring from anywhere and every which way.

Skinner’s offense is usually based on oddly intricate plays, and his spin-around goal from the high slot was no different. He had a similar shot that resulted in Okposo’s goal, as the rebound was kicked right to the Sabres’ captain.

On the second Cozens goal, his shot was deflected wide on the rush. He swatted at it from behind the goal line, and the puck banked off the Vegas goalie and into the net.

It’s just proof that sometimes timing is everything. That’s where the public expected goal models can get it wrong. Causing a little chaos instead of looking for the most predictable play can be more effective in the NHL. It’s the action before the shot that can boost results.

What’s Next

Same place, same time tomorrow. The Winnipeg Jets come into town after their 5-3 victory in Carolina on Saturday. Connor Hellebuyck started that game, so we’ll likely see backup goalie Laurent Brossoit in the net for Winnipeg. Brossoit’s posted very strong numbers this season, with a .922 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average.