I almost turned down an invitation to last night’s game against the Oilers, and I’m very glad I didn’t because it was one of the better ones this season. For the first time in quite a while, Buffalo looked like a team up to the challenge and played with conviction. Whether it was the return of Rasmus Ristolainen or the presence of Connor McDavid firing them up, the Sabres took it to Edmonton and scored a desperately needed 3-1 win to avoid their eighth straight loss.
As previously mentioned, Rasmus Ristolainen played for the first time since the beginning of this month, and Buffalo’s defense looked reborn as a result. The Sabres out-shot the Oilers only by one, but did not allow many quality scoring chances and didn’t give up a goal until Yohann Auvitu broke Robin Lehner’s shutout bid with less than 20 seconds remaining on a slapshot through a screen. Lehner finished with 29 saves in a solid performance.
Ristolainen (2 A), Kyle Okposo (1+1) and Evander Kane (2 A) all had multi-point games while Jack Eichel scored his seventh and Jordan Nolan recorded his third point in two games. Jacob Josefson opened the scoring in the second with his first in a Buffalo uniform off a great pass from Okposo. The well-rounded onslaught is a great sign that the Sabres may finally be waking up and starting to work cohesively. The team has lacked secondary scoring all season and will need to continue to improve on that.
The Sabres have not played as poorly this season as their record suggests. Many losses have come in tight games that have barely slipped away, but the one area where they have been quite bad is momentum. The team has not managed at all to string together wins or build any kind of positive energy. That’s of course what happens when the wins are few and far between, but it only takes one win to get the ball rolling, and that’s what last night needs to be.
An advantage of being at the bottom of the standings is that there’s no such thing as a “bad win”. The Oilers aren’t a much better team than the Sabres as far as the standings go, but they are none the less and the win is a good one. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Buffalo to resurrect this season, but that’s good in a way because no win against a higher standing team is a bad win.
Buffalo has pieced together consecutive victories only once this season, and will attempt to do just that tonight as they visit Bell Centre to take on the also struggling Canadiens. Face off is in about an hour. It’s a big one for Buffalo. Will the good times start rolling? We can only wait and see.