The Buffalo Sabres finally found themselves with the first goal of the game Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark. They allowed themselves to play with a lead for most of the contest, and it helped the Sabres en route to a 3-2 win.
Buffalo did a great job of controlling play all game, and the Devils didn't have any answers offensively until late in the game.
The Sabres had quite a few things go their way on Saturday, something that hadn't been happening in their previous three losses coming back from their two-week pause. Let's take a look into this performance with three observations:
1.) Cozens energizes his line
Sabres rookie forward Dylan Cozens ended up on the NHL's COVID-19 Protocols list a little bit later than some of his teammates, so there was slight delay before his return to the lineup.
With the Sabres losing three-straight coming out of the break, it wasn't really worth the wait, but Cozens' return was a huge boost for linemates Eric Staal and Taylor Hall. Cozens was able to perturb Devils winger Janne Kuokkanen just enough for Taylor Hall to find Colin Miller at the point, who fired a wrist shot straight into the net for the Sabres' first lead in 255:45 of play.
Cozens looked like he never skipped a beat from being out for 20 days. His early success is one of the more positive developments for the Sabres this year.
2.) McCabe's injury bad news for the Sabres' defense
Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe's 2020-21 campaign may have come to a screeching halt late in the third period on Saturday afternoon.
McCabe skated into the corner trying to make a routine play on the puck, but on his way, Devils captain Nico Hischier tied him up. McCabe's right leg got twisted in the process and he went down hard in the corner, struggling to get up under his own power. He had to be helped off the ice by players and trainers.
McCabe has had a career-year for the Sabres thus far. While it doesn't show up on the offensive score sheet, his impact in the defensive zone has been invaluable for a team that has struggled to score goals and has to keep things close throughout.
3.) Borgen has arrived
Sabres defenseman Will Borgen has been a mainstay for the defense of the Rochester Americans for the past two seasons. He earned his first call-up to the NHL during the 2018-19 season, and earned himself an original spot on the taxi squad to start this season.
While Borgen was forced to wait for his first opportunity to get in some game action, he has consistently been impressing the Sabres' coaching staff.
Through four games, Borgen has shown that he belongs in the NHL.
Starting on the third pairing Monday night against the New York Islanders, Borgen found himself on the top defensive pairing Saturday afternoon with Rasmus Dahlin. The defensively-sound defenseman allowed Dahlin to contribute offensively on the rush.
If Borgen can maintain his level of play, the Sabres could be set for quite a while when it comes to their top pair.
Buffalo's road trip continues on Monday night when the team will make the short trek to Long Island to face the Islanders at the Nassau Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. It'll be the third of eight times this season where these two teams will square off.
Puck drop takes place at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, with the Paul WIlliam Beltz Pregame Show with Mike Schopp and the Bulldog starting at 6 p.m. EST on the radio home of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.