Going against the NHL’s best, the Buffalo Sabres took the Nashville Predators to the wire and almost came away with two points.
However, the Predators took home a 2-1 victory in the shootout Sunday night at First Niagara Center. Filip Forsberg scored the decisive goal in the shootout.
Nashville’s power play was 0-for-5 on the evening until Mike Riberio tied the game with the man advantage with 4:17 left in regulation. Tyler Ennis opened the scoring for Buffalo.
The Sabres ended up committing seven penalties in the game including one in overtime. Nashville currently is atop the NHL standings with 87 points in 61 games played.
“We were so close to winning the hockey game and beat the best team in the League, but we took way too many penalties and they got one lucky bounce,” goaltender Michal Neuvirth said. “It’s tough to swallow but it’s definitely nice to get a point against a team like that.”
Buffalo committed four penalties in the third alone, resulting in two Nashville power plays. It was the first time Buffalo has killed off seven penalties in a game since March 8, 2011 at Pittsburgh when they went 7-for-7.
“It’s tough to win straight-up against a team like Nashville but when you add some of the penalties we took – unnecessary penalties – it’s really tough,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.
SAVE AFTER SAVE AFTER SAVE
Neuvirth held strong for Buffalo, stopping 26 shots through two periods and ending up with 37 saves to pick up First Star honors.
Over the past five games, he’s stopped 95.1 percent of the shots he’s faced (175 of 184). After the game, he credited the strong defensive play of his teammates.
“They’ve been working hard for me and I thought it was a successful week. Like I said, it’s tough to swallow the last two nights, but you’ve got to take the positive things and keep moving forward,” he said.
He’s made four-straight starts since the team traded Jhonas Enroth to Dallas, allowing him to try and make his claim to be the team’s No. 1 goaltender moving forward. In those four games, he’s registered a .951 save percentage and a 1.73 goals-against average in those games
“Every game he’s played since he’s got all the starts, he’s been playing really, really good for us,” Nolan said.
Neuvirth’s counterpart Carter Hutton stopped 16 of 17 shots.
THE FIRST TALLY
Tyler Ennis scored with 13.9 seconds remaining in the second period on Buffalo’s seventh shot of the game. Ennis now has 15 goals on the season.
Going hard to the net, center Zemgus Girgensons swung around and fed Ennis a pass in front of the net. Ennis put a move on Hutton and capitalized for his 15 th goal of the season. Matt Moulson set the play in motion and extended his point streak to three games with the secondary assist.
“It was a great play by Moulson to just chip it to Z there and Z was flying in,” Ennis said. “I was yelling. Z made a great kind of spin-around pass to me and I just tried to make a move. I whiffed on it a bit, but I was glad it went in.”
RELIEF ON THE BACK END
Buffalo’s blue line has taken its lumps over the past few weeks. Josh Gorges is out for the year with a lower-body injury and Mike Weber will miss at least two weeks with an upper-body injury sustained on Friday.
The Sabres received word Sunday morning that Tyson Strachan has an infection and would miss the game. The coaching staff also made the decision to sit Nikita Zadorov and they’ll determine how much time he will miss in the coming days.
That led to the team calling up defensemen Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
“I thought they both did well,” Nolan said. “For two young kids coming up to get a call at 10 o’clock in the morning and come up …they played really well for us.”
It was Pysyk’s third recall of the year. In parts of three seasons with the Sabres, Pysyk has played in 67 games and recorded 13 points (3+10). With Rochester this season, Pysyk has appeared in 50 games and contributed 16 points (3+13). He played 16:51 on Sunday.
McCabe hasn’t been up since the end of last season when he played seven games to close out the year after signing a contract after his junior season at Wisconsin.
In 49 games with Rochester this season, McCabe has led all AHL rookie defensemen with 25 points (4+21), including 10 in his past 11 games. McCabe logged three hits in 10 minutes of action.
“It’s strange with so many defensemen they carry up here,” he said. “With the injuries and the illness and whatever it may be, if you’re called upon or looking to step in here, just provide consistency on the back end. I think me and Mark, we look forward to those opportunities and it was nice to get one.”
Buffalo’s next game is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Columbus. The Tops Game Night pregame show begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game against the Blue Jackets can also be heard live on WGR 550.