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Mittelstadt's shootout goal clinches win in preseason finale

Gilmour continues strong preseason; Ullmark makes 34 saves

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

PITTSBURGH - For all the terminology that has been used to describe how the Sabres aim to play under new coach Ralph Krueger, defenseman Marco Scandella offered the most succinct explanation from the visiting dressing inside PPG Paints Arena on Saturday evening.  

"It should look like we have the puck more than they have the puck," Scandella said, grinning in the wake of a 3-2 shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

The Sabres had several stretches that met that criteria in their final tune up before they return to Pittsburgh for their regular-season opener next Thursday. They controlled the first period to the tune of a 20-12 edge in shot attempts and later overcame a 2-0 deficit to earn the win in their preseason finale. 

Scandella and Zemgus Girgensons scored goals to engineer the comeback, while Linus Ullmark turned in a 34-save effort. 

Casey Mittelstadt roofed a backhand shot behind Penguins goalie Matt Murray to clinch the win in the sixth round of the shootout. 

Video: BUF@PIT: Mittelstadt puts home backhander to win SO

"We were really pleased with the first period," Krueger said. "We thought that the group executed with passion towards the kind of game that we want to play. There was excellent puck management, strong defensive play. In the second, we got away from that. 

"We got complicated with the puck, we tried to force some pucks through the neutral zone that Pittsburgh jumped on. But what pleases us is after going down two goals, the group found the courage to step up here and turn this game back around."

The game was a test for a Sabres lineup playing without four of its top five remaining scorers in Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen. The Penguins dressed most of their usual lineup, from superstar forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to defenseman Kris Letang.

Pittsburgh built its lead during a 59-second stretch in the second period. Patric Hornqvist concluded a long shift in the Buffalo zone by tipping a point shot from Justin Schultz to make it 1-0, then Bryan Rust doubled the lead with a wrap-around wrist shot. 

Scandella stopped the bleeding less than two minutes later, burying a hard slap shot from the top of the left circle. Girgensons tied the game at 11:27 of the third, burying a breakaway attempt after being set free by a seeing-eye pass through traffic from defenseman John Gilmour.

Video: BUF@PIT: Scandella hammers puck past Murray

"The second period, I thought we defended a lot because we turned the puck over a lot," Gilmour said. "But for the most part, our first and third periods, we were playing the game we want to play. We were playing fast, making good passes, and as you saw we were able to come back."

Ullmark saved the game with a flurry of stops at the end of the overtime period, including a put-back attempt from forward Jake Guentzel that the goaltender stuffed with his left pad. It was one of a few instances in which Ullmark had to fight through traffic to make stops during the extended outing.

"It's basically trying to have the vision, my eyes on the puck," he said. "That's the most important thing. Second comes to positioning. If I can see the puck, I can make a save. If I'm not in a right position, I can get there if I can see where a puck is going. If the puck gets lost, that's when I really need to be in a good position to just play the percentage."


Gilmour continues to impress

Gilmour signed a two-year deal on July 1 with the goal of making the Sabres after scoring 20 goals and 54 points for the New York Rangers' AHL affiliate last season. The 26-year-old opened his preseason in a big way, putting his speed on display to score a goal during the exhibition opener at Penn State.

He continued to impress in the preseason finale. Though his pass to Girgensons will stand out on the highlight reel, Krueger has emphasized his defensive play throughout camp. 

"I thought John's probably played the toughest game of his life today as far as the opposition," Krueger said. "His ability with his skating strength to adjust was quite impressive. He played a good game here today and he's put pressure on the mix and the decisions we have to make."

Video: BUF@PIT: Girgensons beats Murray for equalizer in 3rd

Krueger will meet with general manager Jason Botterill over the next two days to finalize the 23-man roster that will return to PPG Paints Arena next Thursday. Whether he's in that lineup or not, Gilmour said he plans to take what he's learned and make the most of it.

"I went out and did my best, so I feel good about it," he said. "I think I'll be able to sleep tonight, and that's that."


Up next

The Sabres open the regular season in Pittsburgh on Thursday. Pregame coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7. 

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