Sabres Beat the Odds, Give Up Late Lead to Minnesota Wild

The Sabres should have won this game.  This is often an easy thing to say: “Aw… should have had it.”  This time the statistics say they really should have.

The Sabres came out flat.  Robin Lehner let in a soft goal that belies his fantastic save percentage of .931 that is good for third in the NHL.  Still, his pride shouldn’t hurt too much as he was the only thing keeping the Sabres in the game through a sluggish start that produced only four shots in the first period to the Wild’s 10.  However, the Sabres flipped the script in the second period, taking 13 shots to 5 and pulling ahead on back to back power play goals, one by Johan Larsson and the other by Jack Eichel.

With the lead going into the third period, the Sabres had everything going in their favor.  The Minnesota Wild had a 1-18-5 record when losing at the start of the third period.  When leading at the start of the third, the Sabres were 17-3-1.  Still, they could not hold onto the lead, letting the Wild tie the game on a poor defensive breakdown during a late penalty.  This took the game to overtime.  The Sabres came into this game 29th in the NHL in overtime, with a 3-3 record.  Fortunately, the Wild came in as the only team that was worse with a 1-8 record.  Still, the Sabres could not finish off the Wild and the game went to the shootout.  The Sabres were lucky again because only two teams are worse than they are at the shootout.  One is the Carolina Hurricanes and the other is, you guessed it, the Minnesota Wild.  But not today as former Sabre Jason Pominville scored the game-winner to give the Wild their very first shootout win of the year.

Missed Chances by Kane

Robin Lehner may have been the first Sabre to want a re-do after his soft first goal allowed, but Evander Kane will be kicking himself even more tonight.  In the first period, Kane and Jack Eichel had a two-on-one rush.  When Eichel pulled the defender, Kane slid in by the far post but wiffed when Eichel succeeded in giving him a perfect pass for the tap-in.  Twitter erupted as no one could believe the puck had gotten past Kane’s stick.

In the third period, Eichel would give another perfect pass to place Kane with the puck close in, one-on-one, with Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.  However, Kane couldn’t finish, pushing the puck into Dubnyk’s left pad.  Dubnyk had Kane’s number the whole night.  Kane received a bounce pass in overtime to go on a breakaway, but once again could not score.  Finally, Dubnyk would stop Kane in the shootout with the same exact spot on his left pad.

Everything came together to give the Sabres another loss in front of the home crowd, falling to 26-31-9.  The Sabres play again Monday, versus the Maple Leafs.