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Devils blow 3-1 lead, fall 4-3 to Sabres in overtime.

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NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New Jersey Devils
Jack Eichel scores twice as the Sabres beat the Devils 4-3 in overtime
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

To start off, this was not a bad game for the Devils as a team. They played well, and out played the Sabres. However, they didn’t take advantage of their opportunities, and a couple of plays let the Sabres come back and win 4-3 against the Devils in overtime.

In the first period, the Devils came out strong. They played hard, and played fast. It finally showed as 13:35 in, Miles Wood scored off a scrum in the front of the net to give the Devils the lead. It was his 10th of the season. The Sabres kept with the Devils this period, and by the end of the 1st, the shots were 12-11 Devils.

The second period play-wise was all Devils. They outshot the Sabres 13-3. However, hockey is not a game of shots as the Sabres and Devils tied scorewise 2-2 for the period. To start off, 5 minutes in Blake Coleman made a terrible pass which deflected off of Jordan Nolan’s skate to a wide open Jacob Josefson. Josefson, known for his shootout abilities with the Devils, had a breakaway. And, as ex-Devils for some reason tend to do, bit back and scored for his 2nd of the season to tie the game for the Sabres. The Devils responded well, when on the power-play Marcus Johansson one-timed a pass from Vatanen through Lehner into the net to make it 2-1. John Moore then scored on a screen by Boyle in front to make it 3-1, and it looked like the Devils would cruise to a win.

But cruise they did not. This tenacious Sabres team would not quit, and 18 minutes in Jack Eichel tipped a shot from Jake McCabe past Schneider to make it 3-2 to end the 2nd. In the 3rd, the Sabres came out out. They kept with the Devils again this period, and it finally worked on the power-play, where Jack Eichel was able to blast a shot into a wide-open net to give the Sabres a 3-3 lead. For a moment, it looked like Taylor Hall had scored to give the Devils a lead, but alas it was for naught as he was deemed offside. Eichel then tipped a puck into the post, and we then headed to overtime.

In the overtime, aside from a few chances for Hischier and Bratt, it was all Sabres. They dominated the play, and Ristolainen then outmuscled John Moore to get the puck and give the Sabres a 4-3 overtime win.

Who Struggled?: Travis Zajac has been given a lot of hate the past few days. This game will certainly not help his case. He was absolutely dreadful today, with his Corsi being a terrible 36.83%. For those who don’t follow advanced stats, as I generally don’t, he seemed incredibly bad just by watching him as well. On a two-on-one chance for Devils Devils, he had an open Marcus Johansson. However, Zajac passed the puck hard into Johansson’s skate, and the chance was neutralized. It seemed like he couldn’t win a puck battle this game, and he seemed slower than the pace of the game.

Now, I like Travis Zajac as a player, and he’s certainly valuable to this Devils team. However, this year he has struggled for the Devils. His Corsi percentage is a low 45.1%, and offensively he’s been nothing this year. I think he can improve, and again, he still is a valuable player for this team. However, he struggled this game.

Kyle Palmieri struggled as well, and he was rated at a 35.71 CF%. It was interesting that Hynes decided to put Zajac and Palmieri on for overtime, especially with putting Palmieri on the opening faceoff of overtime.

The Coleman-Boyle-Gibbons line wasn’t solid today. Hopefully it was just a one game thing.

Faceoff Improvements: The Devils seriously need to improve on faceoffs. It seems like almost every game, they lose in this department. In fact, based on Puckbase, we are the 28th team in terms of faceoffs, with a 47.4% faceoff win percentage. In this game, the Devils won 24 and lost 38 faceoffs, which is terrible. Pavel Zacha was a terrible 4-10. Zajac was 4-8. The only two players who had winning records were Hischier and Boyle, who were both 7-6. Improvement definitely needs to be made in this department.

Don’t Blame Schneider: As a quick note, Schneider was at fault for none of the Sabres goals. This game will look horrible for him statwise, but we must remember it was not his fault. Aside now finished.

The Game Stats: NHL.com Game Summary | NHL.com Event Summary | NHL.com Play-by-Play Log

So close to sweeping the 6 game home stand.

Thanks for reading!