Neuvirth: No Tank You, Lights Out in 4-2 Win Over Columbus

In what could be one of the most decisive games in the “McEichel Tank Wars of 2015", the Sabres rode a 45 save performance from goaltender Michal Neuvirth for a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on the road. Playing in and winning his sixth straight start since becoming the Sabres ace between the pipes, Neuvirth now has a .952 save percentage in those six starts and has faced 231 shots (an average of 38.5 shots per game). Another solid performance from Neuvirth is what allowed Buffalo to steal yet another game and improve their record to 2-1-2 in their last five games.

The Sabres newest addition to the te...Cody Hodgson, opened up the scoring for Buffalo 9:30 into the first. On what looked like a dump in on net, or an errant pass to a crashing wing, the puck dribbled past Blue Jackets goaltender Anton Forsberg and crossed the redline for Hodgson’s third goal of the season.

Knowing that Forsberg was playing in just his 4th NHL start and still looking for his first NHL win, it was clearly evident that the Sabres game plan was to run up the shot counter. Coming into this game, Forsberg had an eyesore .864 save percentage with a 4.85 goals-against average. Hodgson’s goal was just a break in the tip of the iceberg as there were many other shots, and even goals, in which Forsberg looked completely out of place in net.

The humiliation would not stop there though. After a Zach Bogosian holding penalty 12:50 less than 3 minutes from the Sabres first goal, the Blue Jackets sixth-ranked power play was outshined by a short-handed Zemgus Girgensons goal. Undecided on whether to play the puck or not, Forsberg came out of his cage too far and misplayed a rolling puck that Girgensons was able to pick up and slide past a completely defeated goaltender. Here’s a look at the goal (note how Forsberg remains face down for a substantial amount of time).

The Sabres were able to hold onto the early momentum gained in the first and retained the lead throughout the game. The only sign of a Blue Jackets come back happened early in the second period when Columbus forward Matt Calvert scored his 10th of the season. Applying pressure and moving the puck around in the Sabres defensive zone, Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson fed a deep pass to Brandon Dubinsky behind the net which opened up Calvert in front for the easy tap-in past Neuvirth.

It would be a short comeback though as Mark Pysyk ringed home his first goal, the game winner, in what is shaping up to be quite an impressive call up.

“I just saw this opportunity, jumped up, screamed to Flynny [Brian Flynn], fortunately he heard me, and I threw the puck on net.” [Mark Pysyk running through the play in which he netted his second goal of the season, first on his recent call up]

Pysyk’s 1 goal and +3 performance landed him second star honors for the game.

Playing in his second game of a recent call up, Mark Pysyk netted a goal and had a +3 rating in the Sabres 4-2 win over Columbus.  Photo courtesy of Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Playing in his second game of a recent call up, Mark Pysyk netted a goal and had a +3 rating in the Sabres 4-2 win over Columbus. 

Photo courtesy of Jen Fuller/Getty Images

A developing story from this game will be the injuries that occurred to Sabres forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis. Both players left the game due to lower-body injuries. According to Sabres head coach Ted Nolan, one injury may be more severe than the other.

“Both players will be evaluated either tonight or tomorrow morning,” Nolan said. “One doesn’t look too good and we’re concerned for sure. We’ll have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

With the Sabres slated to practice tomorrow morning, we will see what comes as updates on the status of both players. As of right now, the Sabres are without Girgensons, Ennis, and Nicolas Deslauriers. Apparently Deslauriers was sick for tonight’s game so hopefully his return will come Thursday against Vancouver. Going into this game, all three players were the only ones to have played all games this season. I guess it only takes a late February game in Columbus to break that stat line. Regardless, it looks as if we will be seeing another Amerks call up before Thursday’s game. My money is on Zac Dalpe. He has been playing hot as of late in the #1 RW spot for the Amerks.