Buffalo Sabres vs. New Jersey Devils Game Recap 1/31/2021

A depleted New Jersey Devils lineup took it to the Sabres Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, winning 5-3 and taking three out of a possible four points away from this weekend. The Sabres had the more skilled lineup, but the turnovers were abundant, the chances against were plentiful and the players know it.

I feel like we are a better team. We have more skill. But we just need to match the work ethic.

Rasmus Ristolainen on the Sabres 5-3 loss to New Jersey

The attention to detail was missing from the start when Brandon Montour and Matt Irwin let Michael McLeod find a seam right up the middle. PK Subban made a nice stretch pass, McLeod beat Hutton on his breakaway move and just like that, it was 1-0 Devils.

The second Devils goal came at the end of the first period as the ball pinballed off a few players and in. While it’s not anyone’s fault, giving up any kind of goal that last in a period only made their uphill climb more challenging.

The Sabres came out with two goals in 1:12 in the latter half of the second period. First, Curtis Lazar tipped a Ristolainen shot, then Rasmus Dahlin cashed in with a low shot from the point.

Miles Wood made sure the Sabres didn’t head back into the dressing room tied after 2. With 0.9 seconds left in the period, he fired his own rebound home, 3-2 Devils after 2.

Ristolainen would find the net with just under four minutes gone in the 3rd, but after McLeod scored his second of the game to make it 4-2, New Jersey sealed the win with a full-ice empty netter.

Game Trends

Trending Up:

Rasmus Ristolainen: The Sabres seemed to have reignited Risto’s hot hand at the top of the crease on the powerplay. His ability to screen the goalie was on display yesterday and today while also knocking in a goal himself for his second of the season. This is only adding to the resurgence of Rasmus Ristolainen and the Sabres need to continue to put him in positions of success, this is one of them right now.

Ristolainen screens:

Ristolainen goal:

Casey Mittelstadt: On a line with Curtis Lazar and Riley Sheahan, Casey Mittelstadt played a good game. Mittelstadt took Tage Thompson’s spot in the lineup and that should continue into Tuesday evening’s game against the Islanders. He showed flashes of quickness, straight line speed, endurance and of course, his quick hands and slick passing. He wasn’t a game breaker by any means, but the line of Mittelstadt – Sheahan – Lazar was better than at least two of the other forward lines.

Trending Down:

First/Last Five Minutes of Periods: Hockey coaches universally detest goals against at the beginning or at the end of periods. It’s commonly referred to as the first and last five minutes of the period, but the Sabres only needed 20 seconds. With McLeod scoring 20 seconds in, Johnsson scoring with 17 seconds left and Wood scoring with 0.9 second left in the period, those are backbreaking goals to give up. The Sabres need to stick to their structure for a full 60 minutes.

On the roadtrip when we were in Philly and Washington, we did a much better job with structure. I think the last few games at home here, we’ve been giving up too many scoring chances. Over time, that’s going to make you pat. Teams are too good.

Carter Hutton

5v5 Play: As Hutton alluded to, the Sabres gave up too many chances. The Sabres have been dominant in the high danger chances at 5v5 this season, but today was hopefully an outlier as the Devils thumped Buffalo in that category. New Jersey produced 22 while the Sabres only produced 11. Four even strength goals for the Devils, one for the Sabres. That is simply not enough and Dahlin acknowledged it:

Quick Hits

  • Henri Jokiharju was replaced by Matt Irwin in today’s lineup, but according to Head Coach Ralph Krueger, he will be back for the next game.

That was strictly because of the type of injury he had. We were not will to go back-to-back off it. He will be fully available after this day today. We expect him back in the lineup Tuesday.

Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger on the status of Henri Jokiharju
  • Sam Reinhart missed his second game in a row due to an upper-body injury. Expect another update tomorrow from Krueger, but Reinhart remains day-to-day at this time. It would appear his goal Thursday against the Rangers might be where he sustained his injury, he looked slow to get up after getting pushed and tripping

Looking Ahead

The Sabres travel to Long Island to take on Mathew Barzal and the New York Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday. They will head to Boston after that series for a game Saturday and Monday against the Bruins.

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