The 2018 Winter Classic saw the Buffalo Sabres host the New York Rangers for the 10th installment of this great outdoor spectacle. The Buffalo Sabres entered the game with a 10-20-8 record good for 28 points in 38 games.
The Rangers entered the game with a 20-13-5 record good for 45 points in 38 games. Buffalo sits in last in the Eastern Conference, and second last in the NHL, while New York is fourth in their division looking to become tied with Columbus for a top three spot. The Rangers lost their last game while Buffalo won their last game.
Buffalo hoped that they would be able to get a streak going, but New York had other ideas.
Buffalo started off the period a little flat-footed, and just 38 seconds into the game Buffalo's Zach Bogosian got a penalty for roughing. Luckily for Buffalo, goalie Robin Lehner was on his game and kept the game tied after the penalty.
After the penalty, New York went on the attack and really took it to Buffalo. At the 15:51 mark of the game, New York's Paul Carey put them up 1-0 after Buffalo played some really passive defense allowing the Rangers to set up very quickly for a goal.
After the goal, Buffalo couldn't really get anything going. They couldn't maintain any sort of offensive attack, and New York was doing whatever they wanted on the ice.
With 11:40 left in the first period, things turned from bad to worse. With a beautiful pass from Kevin Hayes from below the goal line, Michael Grabner shot it by Lehner to make it 2-0 New York.
Buffalo got their first power play with 6:01 left in the first as Brendan Smith went for tripping, but Buffalo wasn't able to do anything with it. Just over a minute after the penalty ended, Buffalo get another chance on the power play, but couldn't do anything with that either. Then with 22.3 seconds left in the first period, Buffalo got their third power play of the game, and enter the second with a man advantage.
Stats after one:
Shots: 16-13 New York
Hits: 12-9 Buffalo
Faceoffs: 14-13 Buffalo
Buffalo entered the second period knowing that if they wanted any chance at all to win, they needed to score and that is just what they did. 56 seconds into the second, Sam Reinhart trimmed New York's lead to one and made it 2-1.
Buffalo seemed to spring to life after Reinhart's goal, but Bogosian got his second penalty of the game giving New York the man advantage for two minutes. Buffalo played fantastic defense and killed off the penalty.
After the penalty, Buffalo pressed the attack and tried to tie the game, but couldn't. Henrik Lundqvist was holding strong while Lehner was doing the same.
Buffalo had another chance on the powerplay marking the fourth penalty on New York. Buffalo was unable to do anything with it and are 0-4 on powerplays up to this point.
Buffalo got another chance on the power play, but couldn't do anything with it again. Both teams had tremendously good chances, but both goalies held strong heading into the third period.
Stats through two:
Shots: 26-24 New York
Hits: 21-19 Buffalo
Faceoffs: 23-17 Buffalo
All of Buffalo's magic wasn't used by the Bills on Sunday, and just 27 seconds into the third the Sabres tied up the game off a "Risto Rocket" from the point. O'Reilly forced the turnover in the offensive zone, and the puck went right to Ristolainen who slapped it by Lundqvist for the goal.
New York tried to remain composed, and it looked as if all of the momentum was with Buffalo. But, both teams remained very passive waiting for the clock to tick down to the ten-minute halftime. Buffalo looked scrambly near the end, but once again Lehner kept the game tied with two absolutely fantastic saves on David Desharnais and Hayes.
After the teams switched sides, both teams were flying up and down the ice. Jason Pominville had a fantastic chance right off the faceoff, but it was turned away by Lundqvist. Then Lehner made two fantastic saves in a row. Buffalo turned up the intensity coming off the halfway mark, and New York was matching them shift for shift.
Neither goalie was willing to give an inch with great save after great save. Both teams were saved by the post, and they both looked great on the forecheck and backcheck. It looked as if 60 minutes just wasn't going to be enough for this Winter Classic.
Stats through three:
Shots: 38-32 New York
Hits: 32-26 Buffalo
Faceoffs: 35-27 Buffalo
The overtime period started off slow for both teams as neither wanted to make a mistake, but after the first minute, both teams turned up the intensity. Lehner and Lundqvist continued their excellent play, but then things went bad for Buffalo.
With 2:45 left in OT, 15 seconds until the teams switched sides, Jacob Josefson was called for a tripping penalty giving New York a 4-on-3 advantage. Buffalo was doing well, but then they weren't.
With 2:17 left, J.T. Miller ended it to give New York the 3-2 win over the Sabres.
Buffalo entered this game hoping that they could continue the good things they did in their win against the New Jersey Devils, but they couldn't. Buffalo returns home gaining four out of a possible six points on this trip, and that stat looks a lot better than it seems.
Buffalo can't seem to finish off teams and are always wasting away Lehner's superb performances. This nationally televised game was a chance for Buffalo to show that they really aren't that bad and that things just didn't bounce their way, and they did for 40 minutes out of 62:17.
The Josefson penalty was a lazy play, and it should not be something that happens in an OT period. Head coach Phil Housley said after the game that they seem to be better which is true, but if they only get one point out of a possible two is it truly that much better than losing?
Buffalo is second to last in the NHL, and are just bad. They are bad, and the front office had better realize that preparing for the future is better than trying to save this season.
The Buffalo Sabres next game is against the Minnesota Wild at 8 PM in Minnesota.
Do you agree with my analysis of the game? Tell me about your thoughts in the comments below!