THE LEAD STORY: It took the Buffalo Sabres just one game to remind fans how utterly terrible they are in shootouts. The Sabres were winners in just two of eight opportunities last year, and opening night 2017-18 was more of the same Thursday as Buffalo fell to Montreal in a shootout, 3-2. Robin Lehner, who literally failed making a single shootout save in eight tries last season managed to make his first stop on Paul Byron (who actually missed the net) tonight but surrendered a goal to Jonathan Drouin in the second round. It stood up because Jacob Josefson, Jason Pominville and Sam Reinhart couldn’t find the net.
MVP: What a return for Pominville, who’s now on pace for 162 goals this season after scoring both Buffalo’s goals. He opened the scoring at 8:30 of the first on the power play and again just 22 seconds into the second period.
LVP: The Sabres power play was the difference tonight and not in a good way. Sure, Pommers scored with the man advantage early but the Sabres blew a golden 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period and allowed Philip Danault to sneak a shorthanded tally in the third that ultimately led to overtime.
GAME NOTES/THOUGHTS: The Ryan O’Reilly/Kyle Okposo/Benoit Pouliot line was held scoreless and combined for a minus-seven plus/minus…. Evander Kane showed why his favorite hobby is shooting the puck as he had a game-high 11 shots… Jack Eichel (along with Kane) assisted on Pominville’s second goal. Seth Griffith assisted on the first… Lehner made 38 saves and played well, but the game-tying goal allowed to Danault was weak… He didn’t get on the score sheet tonight but I liked Zegmus Girgensons’ game.
THE BIG PICTURE: The Sabres have co-number one lines but tonight the Eichel trio looked far superior than O’Reilly’s unit. Pominville’s already been a fan favorite and tonight served as reminder to anyone who may have forgotten how beloved he is in Buffalo. Not getting two points in the opener sucks and coming up short yet again in a shootout is already concerning, but all in all it was a good night at the Keybank Center. My lone real beef with tonight Eichel not participating in the shootout. I don’t care that he’s just 1-for-9 in his career at them, he’s your franchise player—let him work it out, man. He’s too good to be on the bench in favor of Jacob Josefson.
UP NEXT: Buffalo hits the road the first time Saturday for a tilt against the New York Islanders.