Whatever the Buffalo Sabres have been doing to consistently beat the San Jose Sharks every year, it’s working.
The Sharks began the game with a near masterstroke of offense in the first period, with Dylan Gambrell scoring his first NHL regular-season goal, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scoring his first goal of the season. But then some time into the second period, the Sharks realized that they are playing the Buffalo Sabres and therefore are not allowed to win. Jack Eichel scored on the power play to make it 2-1, then Sam Reinhart would tie it in the final minute of the second period. In the opening minute of the third period, Jeff Skinner would score to make it 3-2, but the Sharks answered with an offensive barrage before Erik Karlsson netted his first goal of the campaign, and first goal of the 2019 calendar year, to tie the game. Despite some good chances from that goal until the horn, Carter Hutton was able to stop the Sharks from scoring a go-ahead goal, and thus the game went to overtime. It was all Sabres in the overtime period, and a game-winning goal seemed inevitable. That was indeed the result, as Jack Eichel scored his second goal of the game to win the game for the Sabres and sweep the Sharks in the season series.
Even after a frustrating loss, there are at least some positives that we can take away from this game. Despite whatever that last goal was, it wasn’t an awful game for Martin Jones in the crease- he had a much better game, stopping 12 of Buffalo’s 15 high-danger chances for an even .800 high-danger save percentage. Plus, Erik Karlsson has been heating up, as with his primary assist on Gambrell’s goal and a goal of his own, he’s extended his personal point streak to five games.
It’s off to Montreal next as the Sharks will face off against Les Habitants in the Bell Centre on Thursday afternoon.
Hey, y’all. It’s Bryan. Busy sports day, but for the next two and a half hours, this is the most important game on the TV for me. Let’s have some fun.
20:00: DROP THE PUCK!
19:22: The lineup graphics wouldn’t let me see the exact time of this chance, but Jack Eichel nearly got the Sabres on the board very early into the game.
15:52: Couture nearly makes something happen after he sweeps the puck away from Carter Hutton’s stick, but nearly is all we get.
14:47: Jones denies Jimmy Vesey after a turnover by Barclay Goodrow. Hopefully this is a sign that we get Good Jones tonight.
14:14: SCORE! Dylan Gambrell with his first NHL regular-season goal- for real this time! What a shot from Erik Karlsson to make it happen!
My only question is, does he get the puck since it’s technically his first?
13:11: It’s been very interesting to see the evolution of Carter Hutton ever since we let him go like they did in that video.
9:14: We have a whistle, and we have a penalty. Mario Ferraro will take a seat for tripping. The replay didn’t look that convincing, but the number one penalty kill in the NHL comes out onto the ice regardless.
7:14: Penalty killed!
6:06: Some good board-play by Dylan Gambrell and Joe Thornton forces Marco Scandella to turn the puck over, which creates an excellent opportunity for Evander Kane.
4:37: SCORE! Marc-Edouard Vlasic is the beneficiary of some beautiful passing between Timo Meier and Patrick Marleau, and he back-hands it into the net to extend the Sharks’ lead!
3:28: Dylan Gambrell has looked exceptional tonight. He moved the puck very well before dishing it to Melker Karlsson.
1:20: Another good save by Martin Jones against this Sabres offense. This time, he denies Conor Sheary.
END FIRST: Sharks 2, Sabres 0
Off to a good start!
The KeyBank Center, also known as the First Niagara Center (or the HSBC Arena... you get the point) has been a house of horrors for the Sharks, as they’ve only been able to win twice in their 22 trips there. Getting out to a fast start like the Sharks have is crucial if they want to win here.
16:50: Just caught that replay of Couture nearly scoring. Great chance for the captain.
14:48: Sounds like Meier and Eichel banged into each other and both seem a little shaken up. Hopefully both men are okay.
13:50: Sharks back to the penalty kill.
12:40: Sabres on the board, 2-1. Jack Eichel is obviously okay after his running into Meier, as he scores on a one-timer on the power play on a nice feed from Rasmus Dahlin.
9:17: Sharks once again back on the penalty kill. Apparently that hit by Mario Ferraro was a tripping penalty. Okay then.
Jamie Baker is pissed, and rightfully so.
7:17: That “penalty” is killed.
6:09: Man, Erik Karlsson can make the most basic of passes look gorgeous.
5:58: Sharks on the power play! Henri Jokiharju, Portland Winterhawks legend, takes a seat for tripping.
3:14: Martin Jones with another good save on Jack Eichel.
:31.0: Ugh, Sabres tie it because of course they do. Sam Reinhart, right in front of the net, tips it past Jones to equalize the score.
END SECOND: Sharks 2, Sabres 2
That wasn’t as good. I think that’s an understatement.
The Sharks weren’t nearly as prolific offensively that period, only getting 5 shots on goal, while the Sabres continued their offensive onslaught, firing 14 shots on goal.
One more period to go. Can the Sharks overcome the Buffalo Curse?
19:16: That is not the start the Sharks needed at all. Jeff Skinner scores to give the Sabres the lead.
17:35: Sharks pressuring in front of the net, Marcus Sorensen tried to feed Joe Thornton but to no avail.
15:43: Erik Karlsson with a knuckle-puck but it’s grabbed by Carter Hutton.
14:23: Sharks cycling the puck around their offensive zone, but nothing has been compelling enough.
13:38: Penalty coming up to the Sabres as Jack Eichel shoves Kevin Labanc into the boards. The call is interference and the Sharks will head to their second power play of the night.
12:22: Sharks getting their chances on the power play, but Hutton stands tall.
11:26: Burns with a big shot that creates some activity in the crease. Hutton still stands tall.
10:53: Some pleasantries now being exchanged in the top left corner. Barclay Goodrow is headed to the box, we’ll see if anybody joins him.
It will only be him. Sabres to the power play once again, it’s a two-minute minor for boarding.
8:33: SCORE! Erik Karlsson gets his first goal of the year, and it’s tied once again!
2:55: Burns with a wrist-shot from the blue line, but Hutton swallows it.
1:00: Final minute of regulation play incoming.
:18.8: Evander Kane with a near game-winner, but Carter Hutton is able to collect it.
END OF REGULATION: Sharks 3, Sabres 3
A bounce-back offensive third period allows the Sharks to tie it in the final frame, and they are at least guaranteed a point. Now the only question is, can they get the all-important second one?
3:45: Ristolainen taking his time behind the net.
1:47: And they score and win the game... maybe?
They do. It’s Jack Eichel.
FINAL (OT): Sharks 3, Sabres 4
The San Jose Sharks will play the Buffalo Sabres on the first game of a five-game roadie tonight in upstate New York. The Sabres, surprisingly, lead the Atlantic Division with a 7-1-1 record. They boast the best goal differential in the league, and it doesn’t seem entirely propped up by percentages.
While Buffalo haven’t been in the same neighborhood as Carolina, Washington, or Boston in terms of 5-on-5 shot share, they’re at least on the right side of the dividing line. They rank 13th in 5-on-5 shot share and seventh in 5-on-5 expected goals share after adjusting for score and venue biases, according to Evolving Hockey.
Paving the way offensively has been the depth trio of Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons, and Johan Larsson. Regardless of their counting stats, the three have created the team’s most dangerous chances at 5-on-5 so far this year. The unlikely duo of Marco Scandella and Henri Jokiharu have proven to be better than the sum of their parts, as the team’s depth has done its part in supporting more well-known names, like Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.
If there is a part of the Sabres lineup that is exploitable at the moment, it is the fourth line and the middle defense pair. The Conor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt, and Jimmy Vesey group, along with the Rasmus Dahlin and Colin Miller pair, have so far been the team’s weak links. It’s up to Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc to make the most of their matchup tonight.
For the Sharks, a slightly rearranged lineup will begin this five-games-in-eight-nights gauntlet. These next few contests will a proving ground for the early-season Sharks that haven’t quite yet found their way.
Expected scratches: Radim Simek (ACL), Dalton Prout (injury), Trevor Carrick (healthy), Jonny Brodzinski (healthy), Lukas Radil (illness), Aaron Dell
Victor Oloffson — Jack Eichel — Sam Reinhart
Marcus Johansson — Vladimir Sobotka — Jeff Skinner
Conor Sheary — Casey Mittelstadt — Jimmy Vesey
Zemgus Girgensons — Johan Larsson — Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe — Rasmus Ristolainen
Colin Miller — Rasmus Dahlin
Marco Scandella — Henri Jokiharu
Where to Watch
Puck drop is at 4 p.m. Pacific / 7 p.m. Eastern at KeyBank Center. The game will be available on NBCSN California, MSG-B for people in the Buffalo area, and NHL.TV. Listen to the game live on 98.5 KFOX or watch from your San Jose Sharks app. Visit here regularly for in-game updates.