NASHVILLE – If there’s one thing the Buffalo Sabres have been able to rely on lately – and actually for a good portion of the 2014-15 season – it’s been their goaltending, no matter who's been between the pipes.
Matt Hackett held Buffalo in their game against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, stopping 29 of 30 shots through two periods. The Predators ended up putting home two more in the third period to come away with a 3-0 victory.
Hackett, in his third start of the season and first appearance since March 7, ended up with 40 saves. It was a big bounce back game for Hackett, who gave up four goals on 23 shots in his last game against Washington.
“He gave us a chance,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “For a kid who’s sat on the bench for the last couple weeks and patiently waiting – we had a chance to work with him the last couple days to prep him for this game. It wasn’t an easy game to play. They have some good shooters on the other team so I thought he played real well.”
Nashville’s first goal came on the power play with 5:08 remaining in the second period. Matt Cullen won the draw to Hackett’s right and Predators captain Shea Weber rifled a slap shot toward the net. Taylor Beck, standing in front, tipped in it to put Nashville up 1-0.
The Predators took a 2-0 lead 5:49 into the third with the Predators in transition. Craig Smith capitalized on an odd-man rush as Nikita Zadorov scrambled to get a new stick after he had broken his on a shot attempt, leading to the Nashville attack. Nolan wasn’t pleased with the decision-making on that play.
Nashville’s third goal came off a shot from the slot by Mike Fisher with 4:59 remaining in regulation.
CHANCES IN THE THIRD
Buffalo’s offense struggled to generate much in the Nashville zone against goaltender Pekka Rinne, especially in the first 40 minutes. The Sabres were outshot 30-13 after two periods but did have a few prime opportunities in the third. Rinne ended up with 24 saves to earn the shutout.
“They’re a very good team and for us to keep battling and fighting through and do what we did, especially in that third period, we had a number of scoring chances,” Nolan said. “We hit the goal post twice I think and Tyler Ennis had a couple breakaways. You can’t fault these guys for the effort, for sure.”
Mikhail Grigorenko hit the goal post midway through the third and a few minutes later, Rinne sprawled out to rob Ennis, who was visibly frustrated by the result of the play.
“I beat him but I couldn’t beat the post. Obviously I’m frustrated but at the same time, I’m kind of happy I had some chances,” Grigorenko said. “The first period it wasn’t really there but I still kept working and skating and hitting and after, it kind of paid off and chances started to come to me.”
Ennis was later stopped on a breakaway with about 1:30 remaining and Rinne made a great glove save on Cody Hodgson with 50.9 seconds to go.
“This is a tough place to play. They came out with a lot of energy,” Ennis said. “They took it to us, but when the game was still 1-0, 2-0, we had some chances to even it up.”
TOUGHING IT OUT
Sabres forward Jerry D’Amigo left the game with 2:10 to play after he caught a high stick from Smith in the mouth. D’Amigo went down on the play and some blood had to be cleaned up on the ice. He would later return to the game wearing a full cage on his helmet. He ended up playing 8:46 and recorded a shot on goal.
“He was banged up pretty good. That was a careless use of the stick there that got him pretty good, cut the inside of his mouth pretty good,” Nolan said. “For him to come back, that’s a gutsy thing to do, too.”
The Sabres will play their third game in four nights on Monday in Dallas. Faceoff between the Sabres and Stars is set for 8:30 p.m. EST. The Tops Game Night pregame show will begin at 8 p.m. EST on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.