OPINION: Sabres lean on Ullmark to beat Rangers

Jack Eichel scored his first goal of the season in a 3-2 win on home ice
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By WGR 550 SportsRadio

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres didn’t put in a 60-minute effort on Tuesday night, but they got big saves from Linus Ullmark in the third period and snuck past the New York Rangers, 3-2.

Buffalo played a good second period to get a one-goal lead and held on for dear life in the third, being out-shot, 15-2. Ullmark had to be very sharp throughout the period, as his team just sat back at let the Rangers come to them.

Taylor Hall took a needless boarding penalty with just 1:37 left in regulation, giving New York a 6-on-4 power play. Ullmark was up to the task, and the Sabres now have points in 4-of-5 games, going 3-1-1.

Special teams won this game for the Sabres. Eric Staal found Dylan Cozens in the slot for a first period power play goal, and then Jack Eichel finally netted his first goal of the season taking a pass down the slot from Victor Olofsson for another with the extra man.

Eichel just raised his arms and looked to the heavens when the puck went in.

Rasmus Dahlin got an assist on Eichel’s goal, picking up his first point of the season.

At that point of the game, the Sabres were 2-for-2 on the power play and had scored on five of their last seven man advantages.

The penalty kill was just as good on Tuesday, and received a shot in the arm from Matt Irwin, who was playing in his first game with the Sabres. While Buffalo was killing a penalty for too many men on the ice, Irwin sent a puck into the neutral zone on the right wall. Tobi Rieder used his speed to get in on a clear-cut breakaway and scored just two seconds after the penalty had expired.

When the Sabres signed Irwin to a free agent contract, I thought, for sure, he’d start the season on the left side and Colin Miller would be the odd man out. Irwin was terrific in this game, and showed that Ralph Krueger made a huge mistake waiting for an injury to Henri Jokiharju to put him in.

Irwin is a solid defenseman who is hard to play against. He does all the little things that get pucks out of danger. Irwin is 33-years-old and has played for the Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks over his 360-game NHL career. He has also made an appearance in 47 playoff games in his nine-year career. He’s a perfect guy to have as your No. 6 defenseman. Krueger has been using him as the No. 7 defenseman, and that’s been a huge mistake.

Miller didn’t help his cause in the first period when he tried a cross-ice pass before he got to his own blue line that hit Chris Kreider in the skate. Kreider went to the net and wound up scoring.

Getting back to Hall, he had a night he’d rather forget. He was on the ice for both of the Rangers' goals, and on the second one, he backed off the point man K’Andre Miller, totally screened Ullmark, and then went down on one knee and didn’t block the shot.

All Hall did was screen his goaltender, who I’m sure was furious because if he saw that long shot, he most likely stops it.

Hall scored in his first game with the Sabres and hasn’t scored since. The left winger hasn’t had a point in four consecutive games.

Buffalo’s second period was better than the first, because they started getting in on the forecheck and getting some cycles going in the offensive zone. That led to chances, and also helped the Sabres draw some penalties.

Miller took at hooking penalty at 8:37 of the third period, and that’s when the Rangers took over the game. The problem was they couldn’t beat Ullmark.

Buffalo is now tied with the New Jersey Devils for fifth in the East Division. The Sabres lead the Rangers by four points and trail the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Pittsburgh by two points. The Washington Capitals lead Buffalo by four points.

If you go by points percentage, the Sabres are tied with the New York Islanders for sixth place at .500.

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