TRAVERSE CITY, MICHIGAN – From the first shift, the outcome was evident.
The Dallas Stars got off to a fast start against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, controlling play off the opening faceoff and never letting up on the gas pedal. Dallas scored three goals in the first period and ended up with a 7-3 victory to claim the Ted Lindsay Division title at Centre Ice Arena.
The Sabres fall to 0-2-1 in the NHL Prospect Tournament, a disappointing result considering they came into the tournament with high expectations and the goal of winning it all.
“The first two games, I think sometimes we played pretty well, but this third one was horrible right away from the first shift,” Sabres tournament captain Rasmus Ristolainen said. “We were not ready to play and battle and we looked horrible. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen tomorrow.”
Brendan Ranford and Matej Stransky each scored twice for Dallas. Brett Pollock, Ludwig Bystrom and Julius Honka also put the puck in the back of the net.
Ristolainen, Justin Kea and Brady Austin tallied for Buffalo. Francois Brassard started in goal for the Sabres but was replaced by Andrey Makarov to start the second period.
WATCH: POSTGAME INTERVIEWS
“Looking at today, I think we were lackadaisical off the start,” center Sam Reinhart, the second-overall pick in 2014, said. “They came out ready to play and for whatever reason, we didn’t. We need to correct that fast if we all want to stick around.”
Buffalo was able to claw their way back into the game and had some great chances in the third period to cut the lead down.
“But it was too little, too late,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “The first shift of the game set the tone for the game… They just cycled on us, had some good chances and we were playing from behind the rest of the way.”
Buffalo had a prime opportunity to make it a closer contest when they went on the power play with 6:38 remaining in regulation. However, they weren’t able to convert and a few minutes later with Makarov pulled, Dallas netted their seventh goal.
Cassidy thinks fatigue may have been a factor in causing some of the Sabres’ problems against Dallas.
“Coming off of an off day, I know some of our top players were playing a lot of minutes – especially Rasmus and [Jake McCabe] tonight played tons of minutes,” he said. “But you’ve got to smell the blood in the water there and understand the urgency of that power play.”
The Stars finished round-robin play 3-0-0 with eight points. They’ll face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in the final.
Buffalo will play at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in the seventh-place game. It can be heard live in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 and on Sabres.com (a Flash player is required to listen to the stream).
CAN’T START A FIRE WITHOUT A SPARK
Down 1-0 and realizing the game was heading in the wrong direction early, Kea tried to create a spark when he dropped the gloves with defenseman Patrick Sanvido 8:02 into the game. It’s the second time Kea has fought in the tournament.
“You get sick of losing, right? The last few games haven’t gone the way we wanted and they probably could’ve if we had a little more scoring. After they scored that one goal, I didn’t want it to keep going in their favor so I just tried t get something going for the guys,” he said.
GOALS TOUGH TO COME BY
Going into the game, Buffalo had been held to only a goal in each of their first two games. Cassidy tried to mix up the line combinations a bit, most notably moving Joel Armia to left wing and playing William Carrier with him and Reinhart.
Carrier set up Buffalo’s third goal when he cut to the middle of the ice and dropped the puck back to Austin.
While the goals aren’t yet going in with the desired frequency, Reinhart said he isn’t panicking or feeling frustrated.
“It’s early. For me, a lot of it is building and I feel if I’m getting chances, it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I feel confident with it. Everyone has some moments where it’s not going in and I stick with the process and I know it’s going to turn eventually.”
Buffalo thought they had another goal from Austin but it was waved off due to a delayed offsides call. Austin shot the puck in from center ice and it took a bounce and banked in off the post and past goaltender Phillippe Desrosiers. While the Sabres were celebrating, the officials were talking to get the call right.
The goal would have made it 4-2 with 7:21 remaining in the second period.
“That would’ve put us back in the game at that point with a lot of time left but that’s kind of the way the tournament’s gone,” Cassidy said. “Not that we’ve earned a lot of them, but we haven’t gotten a lot of breaks. We’ve certainly got to play better and play harder so we earn some more breaks.”
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov did not play for most of the second period and was benched for the entire third. Cassidy said he wanted to see more effort out of the 2013 first-round pick.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are trying to make an NHL team in the next week or so. I wouldn’t specifically say he was the only one, but maybe the biggest offender,” Cassidy said. “We just didn’t like his effort and we had to make a decision on it.”