The Sabres entertained their fans and won their first game


Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) – There were just over eight thousand fans in the building for opening night on Thursday, but they sure sounded like 19,000 as they thoroughly enjoyed what could be the new and improved Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo came out fast and never looked back pasting the Montreal Canadiens 5-1. It was the line of Kyle Okposo, Zemgus Girgensons and Cody Eakin that got things started. From their very first shift they were hard on the forecheck and never let Montreal out of its zone. The trio had a four point night with Okposo and Girgensons celebrating their captaincy with goals.

Okposo’s goal came on the power play. Right before the goal, Jeff Skinner buried a slap shot right into the shin pads of former Sabres first round pick Joel Armia. That sent Jake Evans in on shorthanded breakaway forcing Craig Anderson into a huge save, his first as a Sabre. THAT’S what’s been missing from this team for 10 years. The big save at the big time.

Less than a minute later, Okposo fires a wrister from the right circle that wasn’t screened and a shot that Sam Montembeault would want back.

The mayhem from the Eakin line that was exciting the fans and the Sabres bench just kept on going for the rest of the period. Before the first ended, Eakin got in on the forecheck and worked the puck back to Colin Miller. He ripped one towards the net and where was Girgensons? Right where goals are scored, in front of the net and his tip makes it 2-0 going into the intermission. Just before that goal was scored, Okposo hit the post with a great chance and then put two big hits on against the wall.

Early in the second period, there was another moment of truth. Penalties to Henri Jokiharju and Eakin put the Sabres down two men for 26 seconds. Girgensons, Miller and Robert Hagg were fantastic with Hagg blocking one of Cole Caufield’s rockets. Even on the 5-on-4, Anderson stopped Caufield twice as he was ripping one-timers from the left circle.

The only goal to beat Anderson was one of the few times all ngiht the Sabres lost coverage leaving Chris Wideman wide open for a layup.

Even after Wideman scored to make it 2-1, I never once sensed that the Sabres were in trouble. They stuck to Don Granato’s game plan of taking the play to the Canadiens and playing fast.

Before the second period was over, Buffalo cashed in for its second power play goal of the game. It wasn’t a Victor Olofsson one-timer, he ripped a wrist shot that again, Montembeault would want back.

Anders Bjork used his speed to get to the net to score his first of the season giving the Sabres a 4-1 lead heading into the third.

Tage Thompson scored Buffalo’s third power play goal of the night in the third period and the fans saluted the team’s effort both then and after the game. Buffalo went 3-for-6 on the power play and went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

This was Hagg’s first game since being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers as part of the Rasmus Ristolainen trade and he had six blocked shots in 19:41 of work. Granato spread the ice-time evenly as only Miller got to 20 minutes playing 20:28.

Unfortunately for Casey Mittelstadt, an injured took him out of this game after playing just 9:07. Granato will be updating that on Friday.

So in the end yes, this was only one game. This team has spent the whole off season telling us that they believe fully in each other and they will play for each other and be a better team. The first 60 minutes of the season totally proved their point, they definitely look to be a better hockey team, but Thursday night doesn’t matter when the puck drops at 1:07 Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. They know they’ll have to show it all over again, but they won’t take offense to that, they’ll go out and have fun playing a game that recently had been drudgery for them.

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