Photo credit: San Jose Sharks
by Mary Walsh
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Saturday afternoon. The win extended their win streak to three against a team that was once nigh unbeatable for the Sharks, at least in Buffalo. Sharks goals came from Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi, and Chris Tierney. Sabres goals came from and Ryan O’Reilly and Jason Pominville. Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell made 31 saves on 33 shots for the win, while Sabres goalie Robin Lehner made 28 saves on 31 shots.
The game concludes a five game road trip for the Sharks, during which they added three wins to their record. After the game, Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said: “Six points on the road trip is huge for us but we have to be ready coming home we got a lot of good teams like Tampa, Nashville and we have to win home. It’s like our building, our tank and we have to play better there.”
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said, of the six points:
We’ll take six. You know, six, seven, eight, I mean you want as many points as possible but I like how we’re starting to play. I think the majority of our play is heading in the right direction and we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every night which is a big part of it.
The game marked a significant improvement in the Buffalo power play, ranked 27th in the NHL before Saturday. Though they only scored once in five chances, the Sabres showed signs of returning to last season’s top ranked power play. The Sabres’ power play goal ended the Sharks’ impressive streak of 16 consecutive penalties killed on the road trip. The Sharks had three chances on the power play but did not score, and at even strength each team had dangerous moments. Both goaltenders had their work cut out for them, but neither team was especially sloppy on defense.
In a near miss for the Sharks, a Buffalo goal was called off with 2:48 left in the first period for goaltender interference. Sam Reinhart caught Dell’s leg and then blocker while skating through the blue paint, turning Dell away from the play and making it harder for him to get back in position. After the game, DeBoer said of the decision to challenge that goal:
It was a great challenge by Dan Darrow and Johan Hedberg who handle that end for us. That helped us get a little momentum too early… When you look at it, I don’t have those feeds, those guys do. But it’s clear that’s what the rule is in place for, for exactly that situation. So I’m glad they got it right.
The first goal came at the tail end of a Buffalo power play, when Joonas Donskoi came out of the penalty box and catch a stray puck that Matt Tennyson failed to stop at the Sharks blue line. Donskoi broke away with a step on the Sabres defense and had room to pick a spot just wide of Lehner.
The second goal of the game came on the first Sabres power play of the second period. Joel Ward was in the box for hooking. Both teams were on their way into the zone after Timo Meier’s short handed chance. O’Reilly came in as the trailer and beat Dell from above the faceoff circle. Assists went to Kyle Okposo and San Reinhart.
The Sabres took the lead with a goal at 14:51 of the second. Evander Kane pushed the puck down low to Jack Eichel, who passed it back up to Pominville. Pominville got his shot around both Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun for his third goal of the year against the Sharks. Assists went to Eichel and Kane.
The Sharks tied the game back up with just 12 seconds left in the second period. Their power play had just expired. Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier had just come on the ice. Meier carried the puck behind the net under pressure from Rasmus Ristolainen. Melker Karlsson trailed the pair, pulled the puck off the boards and took a hard shot from just above the goal line. The puck went off of the goalie and Tierney was on the other side to knock it down and in the net. It was Tierney’s second goal of the season. Assists went to Meier and Karlsson.
Logan Couture’s game winner came 16:08 into the third period. He fought his way through a check from Jake McCabe to catch a pass from Tomas Hertl. McCabe followed after Couture and gave him a shove while he took the shot. No matter, the shot went in anyway. Assists went to Tomas Hertl and Justin Braun.
After the game, DeBoer gave his assessment:
Tough game, they’re a desperate team. We wanted to end this road trip right and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We shot ourselves a little I thought early in the game with the penalties but recovered and did enough to win, got a great performance from Deller. So it was a good win for us.
The Sharks next play on Monday in San Jose against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 PM PT. The game will be Patrick Marleau’s first visit to the Tank as a Maple Leaf.