The Sabres got into trouble in their defensive zone early and the Hurricanes were able to take advantage of that. Carolina scored three goals in the second period and it ended up turning into a 5-1 win for the Hurricanes. Elias Lindholm recorded a hat trick to lead the way.
Throughout training camp, Ted Nolan and the Sabres coaching staff have stressed the value of working hard every shift. Nolan didn’t like what he saw for much of the game.
“It had nothing to do with systems or tactical plays, we just didn’t compete,” he said. “We didn’t work and we didn’t battle. We got beat to a lot of pucks in the first couple periods. We had no fight and no compete level. That’s the most frustrating part.”
However, with it only being preseason, there are no points to be gained or lost in the standings and the team can go back to the drawing board and get ready for the regular season, which begins next week.
“It almost looked like the way we played last year. You do so well in the first little bit but it’s not the end of the world. It’s a part of training camp. It’s part of the ups and downs of it,” Nolan said.
“Tonight was one of those downs. Last game, we won 6-1. It all evens out. We’ll get the lineup put together the next couple days. But overall, the camp was good and tonight was also good in one way in that some guys made decisions very easy.”
Overall, this training camp has been used as a cornerstone for establishing how the Sabres want to play and act both on and off the ice.
“I think we did a lot of good things. I think we’re building on something and we’re working towards something,” defenseman Josh Gorges said. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s a process. It’s a long year and I think we’ve got to continue on the good things we’re doing, learn from some of the mistakes we’ve made and keep getting better each day.”
A SCARY PLAY
A dangerous hit behind the Buffalo net by Chad LaRose took Gorges out 3:28 into the game. LaRose received a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. Carolina was able to kill off the penalty.
“We have a few guys on our team that are physical and should they have picked it up? Certainly,” Nolan said. “I think those things where a team gets physical against you, you want to respond in some way and we didn’t respond. That was probably the most frustrating part. Sometimes, decisions are made for you without making them.”
Gorges would return for the start of the second period with a nasty cut on his face. Since there was no evidence of a concussion, Gorges couldn’t wait to get back into the game.
“We’re trying to get ready to play. Besides the cut, I felt fine. No symptoms, no nothing,” he said. “There was no reason for me not to get back out there and play alongside my teammates.”
When Gorges spoke to Sabres.com after the game, he said he had not yet seen a replay of the hit. Nolan was thankful that the injury wasn’t more serious.
“We wouldn’t even think about bringing him back in the game if there’s any kind of problems. And it just shows you what kind of guy he is,” Nolan said. “He took his time with the issues with head hits. He had to take his time to make sure he was 100 percent. He came back which was great.”
While disappointed that they were unable to capitalize, defenseman Jake McCabe mentioned that the real work on special teams will come in the final days of training camp and then throughout the regular season.
“When you have a five-minute power play, you definitely want to take advantage. A lot of times, you want to get that first goal early and maybe you can get another one,” he said. “That set us back a little bit. We didn’t get much at all.”
TURNING ON THE RED LIGHT
Buffalo’s only goal came from McCabe. His second marker of the preseason came with 4:12 remaining in the second period to make it 4-1. Both goals came in similar fashion. With traffic in front of the net, McCabe was patient with the puck at the left point, pulled up and let a wrist shot go that beat Cam Ward.
The puck made its way to McCabe by way of Mikhail Grigorenko, who grabbed a loose puck in the right wing corner and winged it over to the point.
“I think I was just about to yell and then he found me,” McCabe said. “It was a heck of a play and all I had to do with find the open spot. Props to [Grigorenko].”
The bounces didn’t go Buffalo’s way early and they ended up in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. With less than two minutes left in the first period, Cody Hodgson made a great rush into the Carolina zone and snapped a shot that cranked off the right goal post.
The play came back the other way and resulted in a 2-on-1 opportunity for Carolina. Alexander Semin, skating down the right wing against Nikita Zadorov, saucered the puck over to Nathan Gerbe, who one-timed it past Michal Neuvirth to make it 1-0.
Carolina jumped out in front 3-0 with two quick goals to start the third. A high blocked shot by Nikita Zadorov landed on Lindholm’s stick. He fired it in on the power play 3:46 into the second. Then 1:01 later, Jeff Skinner, in the front of the net, one-timed a pass that came from Gerbe along the corner.
Lindholm notched his second of the game 9:57 into the middle period when he roofed a shot over Neuvirth, putting the Hurricanes up by four. He added an empty-net goal with 3:56 left.
A BARRAGE OF SHOTS
Neuvirth was busy in net, facing 36 shots. The Sabres were credited with 15 blocked shots and the Hurricanes missed another 13.
“I felt better. Obviously it’s tough to give up three goals like we did in the second, but I battled hard,” Neuvirth said. “The whole game I was trying to help my teammates get a good effort from the goaltender.”
He came up with a sequence of saves late in the third to ensure the game didn’t get too far out of hand.
“It probably could’ve been 6, 7-1,” Nolan said. “He made some real good saves outside of maybe one shot but that happens with the best goalies in the world. But I was happy with the way Neuvirth played and it probably could’ve been a lot worse.”
His counterpart Ward made 19 saves.
Nolan said that the coaching staff would discuss the final round of cuts over the next few days and make their roster decisions soon. They’ll return to the ice Monday and begin preparing for the season opener on Oct. 9 at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.