For the fifth time this season, and the fifth time in the last eight New Jersey Devils games, the Buffalo Sabres and the Devils did battle. The Devils had dropped two to the Sabres, bookending their three-game losing streak with losses to Buffalo. The January 31 game between the teams was the only game that resulted in a New Jersey win.
They finally broke through tonight thanks to a three-point night from Pavel Zacha, including the game winner in overtime.
The Devils made some transactions with Yegor Sharangovich being recalled from the taxi squad and Janne Kuokannen being moved to the taxi squad. Sharangovich played tonight. Will Butcher and Scott Wedgewood were the scratches for the Devils.
Buffalo announced late, following him taking warmups, that Jack Eichel would be a scratch for the night.
In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood again got the nod for New Jersey, making 29 saves on 32 total Buffalo shots for a .906 save percentage. He stopped seven of the Sabres’ nine power play shots (Buffalo was 2-for-4 on the man advantage) and 22 of the Sabres’ 23 shots at even strength as the Devils’ penalty kill problems continue.
For Buffalo, Linus Ullmark started, stopping all 15 shots he saw. He was injured making a sprawling save on Nico Hischier early in the game and did not return for the second period.
Carter Hutton came on in relief for him and stopped 21-of-25 for an .840 save percentage. He stopped five-of-six on the power play and 16-of-19 at even strength. The Devils outshot Buffalo 40-32.
The Sabres were in their white Reverse Retro ‘90s alternate-style uniforms leaving the Devils in their red uniforms on the road.
The play that saw Ullmark get hurt actually happened at the 14:03 mark of the first and saw Hischier take the shot from the far faceoff circle. The red light went on, but Ullmark had clearly made the save. He was, however, injured, and would not return for the second period.
The Sabres got on the board first when the Devils won a faceoff deep in their zone. Dmitry Kulikov grabbed the puck off the win and tried to pass to PK Subban behind the Devils net. Kulikov mistimed it, however, and Subban bobbled the pass. The puck bounced out to Victor Olofsson, who spun the puck to Riley Sheahan in front. Sheahan scored, giving Buffalo the early 1-0 lead. The goal came just 6:28 into the game.
That would take us into the first intermission.
In the second, Jesper Bratt got his first of the year when Zacha made a nice move to get the puck out of the Devils’ zone to Bratt. Bratt made a dipsy-doodle move around the Sabres’ defender, beating Hutton glove side. For Bratt, it was his first goal of the season and for Zacha, it extended his point streak to eight games. That goal came at the 5:27 mark of the second.
But speaking of players getting their first goal of the season, Casey Mittelstadt would retake the lead for the Sabres at the 8:03 mark. This was the first of two power play goals for Buffalo. It saw Eric Staal pass out of the far corner through Blackwood’s goal crease. Mittelstadt shoveled the puck in to make it 2-1 Sabres.
In the third, Miles Wood would answer with a power play goal of his own. Wood had drawn a double minor high-sticking call when Taylor Hall clipped him and would cash in on his own.
Ty Smith faked a shot/pass and gave it to Nikita Gusev at the far circle. Gusev then shot and it bounced off of a Buffalo player’s skate and right to Wood, who scored. The goal came at 4:25 into the third, but more importantly, it came within the first two minutes of the double minor, so the Devils still had two more minutes of power play time. Buffalo would kill it, however.
The Devils would finally take their first lead of the night when Hischier scored at the 6:45 mark. This one was all Pavel Zacha. Zacha fought through a check and threw the puck on net. Hischier got it and put it in backdoor. That made it 3-2 Devils.
But the Sabres power play was not done.
With exactly 5:30 to go in regulation, on the man advantage, Hall did the work on the far halfwall, passing to Sam Reinhart who was at the near side of the net. Reinhart simply laid the puck in and the game was tied at three. Rasmus Dahlin had the secondary assist.
When time ran out of regulation, it was off to overtime. And things did not take long to be decided.
Just 1:17 into the OT period, Smith broke free in the Devils’ zone, getting the puck up to Bratt, who gained the Sabres zone following a criss-cross up ice. Bratt dropped the puck for Zacha, who took it and snapped it by Hutton to end the game and the Devils three-game losing streak, giving them a full two points.
The Devils improved in the faceoff circle, winning 44-percent of the game’s faceoffs – Travis Zajac led the way with a 63-percent winning percentage for centers.
The teams tied in hits with 14 apiece. Buffalo had more blocked shots at 14 to the Devils’ six and the Sabres had ten giveaways to the Devils’ two.
Zacha led the Devils in points with three (one goal, two assists) with Bratt and Smith also registering two points. Jack Hughes led in shots with a whopping eight. Hits were led by Michael McLeod and Kulikov who had three. Andreas Johnsson led in blocked shots with three. Hughes led in takeaways with one.
Time on ice was led by Damon Severson with 24:30. Hughes led the forwards with 20:53.
Next up, the Devils will spend the next five games at home, beginning on Saturday as they welcome the Washington Capitals to Prudential Center for a pair of games this weekend. That game on Saturday is at 1 PM. We will see you then.
Until then, stay safe everyone!