Quick Bites: Sharks squeeze out win in Buffalo

Lucky there was nobody there to see that, eh Sabres fans?

The San Jose Sharks have swept the season series against the Buffalo Sabres with a 3-2 win in last night’s second and final meeting between the two this season. The documented attendance was 8,117, but it was apparent that the actual number was much, much lower, as there was little momentum to build off of for either team due to a silent KeyBank Center.

The Sharks mainly dominated the first period, scoring three unanswered goals while taking advantage of the Sabres’ defensive mishaps, but they were outplayed pretty heavily after that, nearly allowing the game to slip out of their hands in the third period. Jeff Skinner got the Sabres on the board midway through the second period, and with two minutes remaining in the game, Zemgus Girgensons put them within one thanks to a power play tally.

Thankfully, goaltender Adin Hill kept the Sharks in check to pull out a regulation win.

Hill saved 37 of 39 shots and recorded -0.06 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in the absence of James Reimer. He faced 22 shots in the third period and allowed just one goal in that frame, an unlucky bounce that wasn’t his fault. Meanwhile, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had a rough game in net for the Sabres, with just 18 saves, an .857 save percentage and -1.51 GSAx. He allowed a few weak goals, helping the Sharks steal this game; however, he didn’t get much help from a very thin Sabres’ blue line.

Tomas Hertl, who had a goal in the first period that was the eventual game-winning marker, was praised by head coach Bob Boughner to the media in the postgame. “I thought Tommy showed amazing leadership tonight. Not just because he scored the game-winner, he was sacrificing; he was blocking shots, smart o-zone changes, pumping guys up. He was very part of the game tonight. He stepped up in Logan’s [Couture] absence.”

Hertl, along with a goal, tallied an assist, two shots on goal, two blocked shots and a 64.19 expected goals percentage (xG%) through 20:40 time on ice.

Mario Ferraro suited up for his first game in 2022, after being placed on the COVID-19 Protocol on Dec. 30th. The young defender notched an assist on Timo Meier’s goal to put the Sharks up by two goals in the first period.

The team showed solid adversity without both of their second-pairing defensemen, Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton. They could return this Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but it’s more likely that they will not come back until Tuesday, when the Detroit Red Wings visit San Jose.

Last night’s win marks the end of a two-game skid for the Sharks and makes it just the second time in seven games that the team allowed less than three goals in a game. While this was mainly due to Hill’s excellent goaltending performance, it’s still nice to not see San Jose let in a plethora of goals.

The Sharks trailed in expected goals (xG), 1.94-1.49, as they failed to get much going after the first period. The game had the feel of a slow-paced match-up, especially in the second period, where there were just a combined 14 shots on goal.

With this win, the Sharks improve to 18-16-1, sitting one point back of the struggling Edmonton Oilers for the second Wild Card spot and three points back of a top-three place in the Pacific Division.

The Sharks are now 1-2-0 on this Eastern Conference road trip, and they will look to close out at .500 with a win against the Flyers on Saturday.