The magic of the goathead continued as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Colorado 4-0 this afternoon in the first NHL shutout for UPL (Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen), who stopped all 24 shots he faced. The Sabres, who now improve to 4-5-0 on the season, got goals from JJ Peterka, Casey Mittelstadt, Tyson Jost and Rasmus Dahlin.
The team is 2-0-0 in their alternate black and red jerseys this year. They are 12-1-1 since reviving the jerseys last season, outscoring their opponents 6-37.
The Sabres shuffled their lines again for this ‘red and black’ game. Zach Benson came back in while Victor Olofsson sat out. On defense, Jacob Bryson made his season debut, filling in for the suspended Connor Clifton.
Alexandar Georgiev vs. UPL in nets. UPL was last called into action to play the second half of the team’s 5-4 loss against the Devils on Friday.
Jordan Greenway– Tage Thompson – Zach Benson
Jeff Skinner – Casey Mittelstadt – JJ Peterka
Tyson Jost – Dylan Cozens – Alex Tuch
Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin – Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson – Erik Johnson
Good first period
The Avalanche controlled most of the play in the first five minutes of the game, generating a few good scoring chances. UPL looked sharp early.
JJ Peterka opened the scoring at 10:32 on a nice play where he stayed with the puck and beat Georgiev with a wrist shot over the glove. It was Peterka’s 4th of the season. Jeff Skinner, who created the turnover at his own blueline and carried the puck up ice, had the assist.
The Sabres picked up their play in the second half of the period putting together some good pressure and several solid scoring chances.
Shots in the period were 11-6 in favor of Buffalo.
Very strong second
Casey Mittelstadt doubled the Sabres lead with his 2nd of the season at 1:39. He held the puck on a 3-on-1 break and caught Georgiev short side over the right shoulder. Skinner and Jokiharju picked up the assists.
Tyson Jost picked up his first of the season to make it 3-0 Buffalo at 8:16. Alex Tuch carried the puck over the line and found Jost with a fantastic backhand pass in the high slot. Jost one-timed the shot past a partially-screened Georgiev. Owen Power picked up the second assist.
Avs star defenseman Cale Makar went down awkwardly into the end boards while they were on the powerplay. The Avs were upset Kyle Okposo wasn’t penalized, but honestly, it looked like Makar lost an edge. It seems like he’s OK; he came back to play the third period.
UPL came up with a great glove stop to keep the Avs off the scoreboard. Good stuff!
Shots in the second period were 11-9 for Colorado.
UPL closes it out in the third
Very good penalty kill about five minutes into the period for the Sabres. Their PK has been a bright pot so far this season.
With about 9:00 to go, Benson took a slashing call and it felt like the Sabres needed to kill the penalty to put this game away. They did a great job on the PK, holding the Avs PP to the outside.
The Avs pulled Georgiev with 3:30 to play. Rasmus Dahlin scored into the empty from 200 feet away at 16:52; his 2nd goal of the season. The assist went to Thompson, who won the faceoff in his own zone.
First NHL shutout for UPL! Shots in the third were 9-7 for Buffalo and 29-24 for the game.
Excellent game this afternoon for the Sabres and a well-deserved first NHL shutout for UPL. He was great, making several huge stops among the 24 shots he faced; especially that one on Ryan Johansen in the second period. He controlled his rebounds well, and the team did a great job in reducing the grade-A scoring chances. Full marks for this one… great team effort!
The Avalanche, who were 6-1-0 coming into this one, are one of the better teams in the NHL. While it’s early in the season, you have to consider them a team with Cup potential. It was encouraging to see the Sabres control the play against a team of this caliber.
Casey Mittelstadt continues to impress me. He works hard on every shift, he’s difficult to get off the puck and his play-making abilities are fantastic. Hi line today with Skinner and Peterka was the team’s best.
It’s only a matter of time before Tage Thompson has a huge game. He’s always creating chances and many of his shots are just missing or are getting blocked. I liked his line with Greenway and Benson, although I think we’ll see someone else on that line soon (see below). If I were to guess, we’ll likely see Victor Olofsson on that line.
Is Benson ready?
I’m not sure if this will be a popular take, but I don’t think Zach Benson is quite ready for the NHL. I like him as a player and I think he’ll be good eventually. He’s got good hockey sense, but it’s clear that he needs to add some strength. It’s too bad that he has to go back to junior – he’s too good for that – but I think it’ll be good for him in the long run.
The injury news was not good for Eric Comrie. After an MRI, it was revealed that he will be out week-to-week with a lower body injury. That likely means he’ll be out until the New Year. I feel bad for Comrie. He seems like a great team guy and he was unlucky to be injured for so long last season. Hopefully UPL and Devon Levi can stay healthy to carry the team.
Just one game below .500, the Sabres are incredibly last in their division. The Sabres have a pair of games against Philadelphia this week. It’d be nice to see them get back to .500 on Wednesday night.
Catch up on all the Sabres results and upcoming schedule here.