By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
Tuesday night was a time when the nation’s journalist fact checkers were exceptionally busy, as they watched President Trump’s speech on immigration from the Oval Office as well as the Democratic response.
However, there was other research to be done at the same time in Buffalo’s KeyBank Center. The Sabres made sure of that with a 5-1 victory over the Devils before 18,212. It was the type of game that sent people scurrying into the archives, looking for precedents to a game that featured all sorts of novelties.
It was a happy night for Buffalo coach Phil Housley.
“I really like the way we played,” he said. “It was a total team effort. We had a shot mentality, paid attention to detail.”
Let’s see what nuggets can be taken away from this one:
Fact: The Sabres scored five goals in the second period to break the game open.
“We’ve been having a little bit of a lull in the second, but we came out strong (this time), had a few good shifts and rolled from there,” Evan Rodrigues said. “We rolled four lines consistently and got good, sustained pressure in the O zone. When you tire teams out like that, that’s when the goals start coming – when you repeat it, shift after shift.”
For what it’s worth:
Facts: Buffalo scored five goals in a period for the first time since Nov. 2009 (Carolina). Also, this was the first time the Sabres had scored five goals in a period against the Devils. Buffalo had the same number of goals against this particular franchise in 1981, but it was known as the Colorado Rockies way back then.
Fact: Fourteen different Sabres had either a goal or assist during that period.
That tied a team record, last set in 2009. For the record – those left out of the run were Marco Scandella, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons and Jason Pominville.
“When you play a team game, all of the guys contribute on offense,” Housley said. “It doesn’t matter who scores, but it helps give everyone some confidence.”
Buffalo responded to a 1-0 deficit less than two minutes into the second period when Jeff Skinner picked a corner on a break down left wing. C.J. Smith’s less than three minutes later was partially blocked by goalie Keith Kinkaid and trickled over the goal line to give the Sabres the lead for good.
That was followed by three goals in a little more than seven minutes. Casey Mittelstadt headed for the net and scored on his own rebound. On perhaps the best goal of the night, Rodrigues drew all the attention to himself and slipped the puck to Jake McCabe, who had nothing but open space as a target for a short-handed score.
“He was at the end of his shift,” Housley said about McCabe. “He was gassed by grinded it out. It was good to see him finish it off.”
The burst was finished by Lawrence Pilut, whose shot from the blue line found the top part of the net. Which brings up …
Fact: It was the first NHL goal for both Smith and Pilut; it’s only the sixth time that two Sabres had their initial score in the same game. The last time came last April, with Mittelstadt and Alex Nylander both put in No. 1.
All the good news for the Sabres wasn’t at one end of the ice. Goalie Carter Hutton earned his first win since Dec. 13.
Getting some support
As an added bonus …
Fact: It was the first time since a Dec. 15 game with Washington that Buffalo had scored more than two goals with Hutton in the net. That helped him end a personal six-game losing streak.
“It’s nice to finally reward him,” Rodrigues said. “He’s been keeping us in a lot of games the entire year. He’s bailed us out of a lot of bad situations. … It was good to reward him today and glad to see him get the W too.
“Obviously, I had been having trouble find a way to win lately,” Hutton said. “I thought I was playing well but missing the timely save. Tonight we broke through and got five.”
Buffalo did all of this scoring without Jack Eichel, who is still out with an injury. The center has been practicing lately, and could be back soon. That leads to one last tidbit.
Fact: The Sabres play in Carolina on Friday night. They will be back in Buffalo Saturday night to host a streaking Tampa Bay squad.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)