Juuse Saros stopped 20 shots in his NHL debut, but it wasn’t enough as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Nashville Predators by a 4-1 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Buffalo scored four unanswered to finish the contest, including two goals on a five-minute power play in the second period after Nashville forward Viktor Arvidsson was penalized for cross checking.
“It was tough; it was a low-event game, but we’re holding a 1-0 lead at that point and there wasn’t a lot going on for them up until that,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of the Buffalo power-play chance. “I don’t think [Arvidsson] had any bad intentions, he just ran into somebody and the stick got caught a little bit high, but just a tough turn of events.”
The loss was just the second regulation defeat for Nashville on home ice this season, pushing their overall record to 12-7-4 on the season.
Mike Fisher opened the scoring with his third goal in as many games. Fisher’s tally on the power play at 11:42 of the first period was his 250th in the NHL and came courtesy of a slick James Neal feed off the draw to the right of goaltender Chad Johnson.
The 1-0 score held through a majority of the middle stanza until the Sabres received the five-minute power-play chance. Jamie McGinn and Sam Reinhart scored for Buffalo with the man advantage to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead headed into the intermission.
“We were playing a pretty solid game, and then we took the five-minute major; that kind of deflated us,” forward Eric Nystrom said. “It was an opportunity for us to keep the momentum with a big kill, but they scored two goals on that five-minute major. It kind of took the wind right out of our sails.”
Reinhart added his second of the night early in the third and Ryan O’Reilly added an empty netter to seal the victory for Buffalo.
A bright spot on the evening was the play of Saros, who was just recalled earlier in the day from Milwaukee of the AHL. Selected 99th overall by Nashville in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Saros fought off a number of shots throughout the evening, masking whatever nerves he may have been feeling.
“I had a couple shots at the beginning that got me going,” Saros said. “I felt pretty good with the pace and everything, and it’s nice to get the first game down.”
“He was good; he seemed like everything was really in control,” Laviolette said of Saros. “He had a couple of tough shots early - there were a couple shots that came in real funny and hard and he was able to make those saves, and then I thought he really settled into it after that.”
The Predators will remain at home to host the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night, and after playing six games in a nine-day stretch, Laviolette is hoping some rest will help lead to a notch in the win column.
“I thought we could’ve had more gas… the energy, maybe the second period had something to do with that,” Laviolette said. “The road trip lasted until tonight, whatever it is - it was a long trip and I’m not making any excuses, but I think we can play at a higher tempo. I think that’s when we’re at our best, and I think we had more to push in that area tonight.”
Gif of the Game:
James Neal appears to have eyes in the back of his head as he feeds an open Mike Fisher for a Preds power-play goal.
Eric Nystrom on Juuse Saros:
“He played great tonight. He made some huge saves, especially early on. The two goals that got them going were power play goals, and there wasn’t much that he could have done on those. He played a [heck] of a game tonight, and he is going to be a really big, bright star in the future.”
Mike Fisher now has a point in five of his last six games against the Sabres. His first-period goal was the 250th of his NHL career.
Craig Smith skated in his 300th career game tonight, all with the Predators.
Nashville placed forwards Paul Gaustad (upper-body) and Gabriel Bourque (upper-body) on Injured Reserve prior to Saturday’s game. Goaltender Carter Hutton was scratched with a lower-body injury.
The evening’s infographic spotlights the all-important special teams’ battle.
Infographic: Pred Drop Saros’ Debut