Instead, the shot rung off the post. Overtime rolled into a shootout, and a wild affair that saw two third-period lead changes ended with a 5-4 Sabres loss at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings.
Twice the Sabres found themselves down two goals, but they overcame the deficits and took a 4-3 lead early in the third period. Despite earning a point in the standings for the third-straight game, players had a difficult time looking past the missed opportunity to beat an Atlantic Division opponent.
“We look at it as a tough loss,” Kane said. “That was a huge game for us with the way the standings are and we had the lead. We weren’t able to hold onto it so it was a tough loss for us.”
Kane scored twice for his first multi-goal outing of the season, while Zemgus Girgensons and Zach Bogosian also tallied for Buffalo. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had three assists and was on the ice for all four of the Sabres’ goals.
After Kane scored the game-tying goal on a power play 53 seconds into the third period, it took Bogosian less than two minutes to send a seeing-eyed shot through net-front traffic that slid between Mrazek’s pads for his first goal as a Sabre and the go-ahead score.
Detroit tied the game with 6:29 remaining after an interference call on Sabres captain Brian Gionta set them up with a late power play. Justin Abdelkader, who had already scored for Detroit in the first period, beat Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark with a wrister from the right circle.
Buffalo looked poised to win in overtime when Kane was tripped by Gustav Nyquist 1:21 into the extra period, giving the Sabres the 4-on-3 power play that led to Kane’s near goal. The Red Wings won the shoot out 1-0, with Brad Richards beating Ullmark on their final attempt.
With two goals, six shots and a couple of drawn penalties, Kane’s performance was his most productive yet as a Sabre.
“Today I think you saw it was dominant,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “It was dominant in a couple areas. I mean he does it with his speed, drawing us a penalty in overtime so it’s all him and his speed. He had his arms in the air for the third one on the power-play opportunity.”
FIGHTS BODE WELL FOR SABRES
Two altercations in the latter half of the second period, both of which broke the Sabres’ way, allowed Buffalo to get back into the game. The comeback can be traced to a shoving match between Kane and forward Henrik Zetterberg with 2:56 remaining in the period.
A sea of red surrounded Kane as he and Zetterberg began to scrap, and the result was two roughing penalties called against the Red Wings as opposed to the Sabres’ one. Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith went to the box along with Kane and Zetterberg.
It only took the Sabres five seconds to score on the ensuing power play. Zemgus Girgensons, stationed in front of the net, tipped a shot by Ristolainen that bounced between Mrazek’s pads and cut the deficit in half.
Exactly two minutes after the first spat, defenseman Josh Gorges took issue with a hit against the boards from Abdelkader and the two players dropped their gloves. Again, the Sabres came out on top; Abdelkader received a minor for hooking on top of a fighting major and Buffalo carried another power play into the third.
This time, with 11 seconds remaining on the power play, Kane forced home a rebound to score his second of the night and tie the game.
“It was big,” Gorges said. “We were able to score to start the third period and it gives us a lot of life. We were able to, not long after that, get the next one so it’s important when those opportunities do arise you take a drive from it and our guys did tonight.”
A SLOW START
Detroit scored twice in the first period to jump out to an early lead. First, Tomas Tatar beat Ullmark with a backhand from the slot just 1:34 into the game following a well-executed possession by the Red Wings.
The Sabres picked up their play thereafter, but a bad bounce led to Detroit’s second goal later in the period. A shot from the blue line by Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson hit Abdelkader, with his back to Ullmark, in the chest. The puck flipped off of the forward, over Ullmark and into the net.
“We didn’t start well, we weren’t ready to play,” Ristolainen said. “A little lazy, we weren’t ready to battle, but after when we got that first goal I think we played better, we battled harder.”
Ristolainen earned an assist on Buffalo’s first goal, which came with 2:30 to play in the first. With four Red Wings near the Sabres net, the defenseman sent a puck off the boards that ended up on Kane’s stick near the blue line.
As Kane left the zone, Ristolainen joined him for a 2-on-1 rush. Kane looked towards the defenseman as he skated toward the net before unleashing a hard wrister that beat Mrazek beneath his elbow on his glove side.
“He was outstanding,” Gorges said of Ristolainen. “He just continues to grow and get better. And he’s not doing anything miraculous – he’s finding the open guy, he’s winning his battles, he’s composed when he has the puck. It’s great to see.”
The Red Wings reclaimed their two-goal lead 4:21 into the second period when Abdelkader fed forward Drew Miller from behind the net and Miller sent a shot to the far-side corner to beat Ullmark. The Sabres goaltender went on to finish his night with 42 saves on 46 shots.
MAYDAY’S MOMENT OF THE GAME
“In a game where the Sabres were down by two on two occasions, it was the play of Evander Kane that changed the momentum. Kane’s spirited play, starting with an altercation with Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg started to take over the game.
“After going on to score two goals, I believe this was Kane’s best all-around game as a Buffalo Sabre.” – Brad May, Sabres Studio Analyst.
The Sabres will return to the ice at First Niagara Center on Friday night to host the Arizona Coyotes. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop set for 7 p.m.