The San Jose Sharks came into tonight with a simple mission: score a lot of goals. The Buffalo Sabres have been putting the biscuit in the basket in large numbers and simply stopping them would prove to be too much.
For much of the game, it seems as though the Sharks couldn’t remember how to play offense, and while their defensive efforts looked good, the Sabres’ looked better, consistently breaking up plays from San Jose before they could even begin. Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner came in exactly as billed, with an impressive nine shots and one goal from the latter.
The game was tight in a lot of ways — both teams put up similar shots, as well as shot attempts and blocked shots in all situations, but the Sharks’ edge came in their special teams, which may be crucial if they have any hope of winning in Buffalo in a few days. Two of the Sharks’ goals came on the power play, while the Sabres went 0-4 on their own man-advantage.
The place where the Sharks ultimately lost was the goaltending battle. Martin Jones had a rough night, allowing four goals on 35 shots. He struggled mightily with high danger chances, posting a 0.625 save percentage on eight high-danger shots. Meanwhile, in the opposite crease, Linus Ullmark put together an outstanding performance, with an 0.833 high-danger save percentage on six shots. It took a lot of odd bounces to get past Ullmark and unfortunately, the Sharks didn’t have that luxury in their own crease.
Time to take this series to Buffalo.
20:00: Sorry for the delay tonight, folks! Looks like all of my West Coast folks are making sure they don’t miss tonight’s game at SAP Center, since the Sharks won’t be back for a bit.
Also just found out Linus Ullmark is pronounced “Lee-nus.” Hate that.
19:10: Nice shot from Marleau to start things off. Good shift from the Sharks.
18:36: As expected, Jack Eichel takes a shot for Buffalo and pings off the post.
17:36: Sharks having trouble setting back up in the zone. Lots of back-and-forth action early.
17:20: Thornton with a shot swallowed by Ullmark.
17:12: Noah Gregor with a shot on goal! Hell yeah, rookie.
14:45: Conor Sheary’s stick broke and someone yelled “NOOOO” very loudly on the ice.
14:15: Melker Karlsson almost scored a goal??? It’s gonna be one of those nights, huh?
13:33: This period is going so fast. Not many stoppages in play, which is pretty indicative of how little either team has been able to maintain possession for too long.
11:54: Erik Karlsson is the only reason the Sharks have been able to keep the puck in the offensive zone or break into the offensive zone effectively.
7:50: Marcus Johansson beats Martin Jones five-hole on Buffalo’s sixth shot of the game from just above the dot, looks like. Oof. 1-0, Sabres.
6:04: Eichel is so dangerous with the puck.
5:10: Buffalo called for too many men and Casey Mittelstadt sits for it. Is MiddlingStats Buffalo’s Kevin Labanc? Sharks power play time.
4:00: IT’S TIMO TIME! Meier gets in close and tallies a power play goal to tie it at 1.
3:20: Randy Hahn mentioned that Karlsson is now on a three-game point streak. Gotta say, that secondary assist on the power play goal is pretty incidental? Joe Thornton set up that play.
2:10: Ullmark is on it tonight, robbing Evander Kane of giving the Sharks a lead.
1:00: Sharks getting it together a bit better at the end of the period.
:39.6: Johan Larsson called for slashing Kevin Labanc on the hands. Seems like a pretty obvious call.
:02.8: Logan Couture with a shot that deflects off Eichel’s stick and out of play.
END FIRST: Sharks 1, Sabres 1
Not a terrible period, but definitely too back-and-forth for long stretches. The Sharks have to be better about setting up in the offensive zone during 5-on-5 play, but their work in the defensive zone has been relatively solid. Buffalo leading in shots, 10-7.
20:00: Starting with the top power play unit, makes sense.
18:57: Change for the Sharks, PP2 time.
18:37: Penalty killed. Pretty uneventful end of the power play, but that’s to be expected with power plays split by an intermission.
16:51: Labanc off for holding on Jimmy Vesey. Buffalo to the power play.
16:20: Big ol’ mess in front of Jones, as Buffalo stays on the puck for a rebound opportunity.
14:51: Penalty killed. Sharks’ PK is looking solid, really limited the opportunities for the Sabres’ power play, which is pretty lethal.
14:08: This Sabres team is fast and that’s difficult for the Sharks offensively.
10:42: Mario Ferarro off for tripping, back to a Sabres power play.
8:42: Bonkers that the Sharks have killed both penalties.
8:19: A 2-on-1 with Joe Thorton and ... Brenden Dillon? gets broken up.
7:46: Kyle Okposo gets a penalty for holding Joe Thornton, which, according to Jamie Baker: “You’re not allowed to hold Joe Thornton.” No worries, Randy Hahn added, “Unless you’re Mrs. Thornton.” Sharks power play.
6:22: Ullmark is very good. I hate it.
5:46: Penalty killed. PP2 isn’t my favorite, but the top unit was out for so long.
4:44: Martin Jones keeps Vlasic from scoring an own goal. Also Jones’ mask is so goddamn cool.
3:43: I keep forgetting Jeff Skinner is playing hockey right now at SAP Center. Still weird.
3:08: Holy smokes, Ferraro has wheels.
2:57: MiddlingStats just scored a tip off a shot from the blue line.
Ahahahah, goal overturned for being played with a high stick.
Aaaaand now it’s back under review. It looks above the crossbar to me, especially since the puck bounced off the crossbar and in.
Jesus Christ. Now it’s a good goal. Absolutely disagree.
2:06: Kane with a shot on goal. I forgot what it looked like when the Sharks did that.
1:08: Dahlin called for tripping, Sharks to the power play. A goal before the period closes would be ideal.
END SECOND: Sharks 1, Sabres 2
That was a little bit rougher than the first period. The Sharks allegedly took 11 shots that period, which feels wrong. Just nothing going for them in that period, and the Mittelstadt goal getting overturned and then overturned again was just brutal. Still, they’re only down by one goal.
19:16: Erik Karlsson with a shot that bounces off of Rasmus Ristolainen — looks like they’re crediting it to Tomas Hertl — and beats Ullmark five-hole. Those odd bounces might be the only way they’ll win this one. 2-2.
17:56: Kane and Gregor with a 2-on-1. Doesn’t get anywhere, but I’m liking what we’ve seen from Gregor.
17:32: Trying to figure out what happened, but Buffalo scored. Jake McCabe is skating behind Jones in the crease, but looks like Skinner tapped it in. 3-2, Sabres.
17:10: Okay, it’s gonna be like this? Marcus Sorensen scores by redirecting a shot from Brent Burns off of his skate while Mittelstadt had his stick tied up. 3-3.
16:06: Buffalo with an extended look in the offensive zone. The Sharks eventually swing it back, but it doesn’t last long before it’s a battle of the neutral zone again.
13:36: Patrick Marleau takes a penalty for tripping. Sharks to the kill.
13:20: Zero to a HUNDRED once the puck gets in front of Jones. Buffalo almost got the lead back.
11:36: Penalty killed. Not too shabby.
7:45: Zemgus Girgensons scores. 4-3, Sabres.
6:44: Obviously Buffalo is loaded with offensive talent, but the defensive effort throughout the line up is really good. They’re constantly breaking up the Sharks’ plays and limiting their shots. It’s frustrating.
6:19: Brenden Dillon called for hooking on Eichel. Sharks to the kill.
4:19: Sharks kill the penalty.
3:07: Just waiting on Pete to pulls Jones, but that would require the Sharks to maintain possession in the offensive zone.
:36.9: Y’know, not sure I agree with Labanc out on the 6-on-5, but he did create a bit of a disaster in front of the net and that’s proven to get past Ullmark, I suppose.
FINAL SCORE: Sharks 3, Sabres 4
Sorry folks, we’re running a bit late tonight! Here’s what you need to know:
Expected Scratches: Lean Bergmann, Lukas Radil (illness, day-to-day)
Injured Reserve: Jacob Middleton (left shoulder), Dalton Prout (upper body), Radim Simek (knee)
Victor Olofsson — Jack Eichel — Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner — Marcus Johansson — Vladimir Sobotka
Zemgus Girgensons — Johan Larsson — Kyle Okposo
Jimmy Vesey — Casey Mittelstadt — Conor Sheary
Jake McCabe — Rasmus Ristolainen
Marco Scandella — Colin Miller
Rasmus Dahlin — Henri Jokiharju
Expected Scratches: John Gilmour, Evan Rodrigues
Injured Reserve: Zack Bogosian (hip), Matt Hunwick (neck), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (hip), Brandon Montour (hand)
Where to watch
Puck drop is at 7:30 Pacific/10:30 Eastern from SAP Center in San Jose. You can watch the game on NBC Sports California in the Bay Area or on MSG-B in the Buffalo broadcast area. This game is also available to stream on NHLtv, though blackout restrictions will apply. As always, you can tune in to the radio call on 98.5 KFOX.