Benoit Pouliot

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Penguins, Crosby, Kessel rally vs. Sabres

Despite all of Jack Eichel‘s rage, the Buffalo Sabres still can’t seem to get it done against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Eichel, Evander Kane, and Sam Reinhart helped Buffalo generate some nice leads on Tuesday, as the Sabres were up 2-0 and 3-1 early on. Benoit Pouliot gave them another lead at 4-3, to boot.

It didn’t matter, aside from securing a “loser point” for the Sabres, as the Penguins ultimately won 5-4 in OT, with Sidney Crosby setting up Conor Sheary for his eighth goal of the season (and third game-winner). To turn the knife in a little bit, Eichel probably could have done a better job against Sheary on that overtime-clincher:

Really, the Sabres might not want to complain too loudly about loser points, as the Penguins have really taken it to them lately.

Sheary’s been deadly against Buffalo, with six points in his last six games against the Sabres after tonight’s two-goal performance.

Crosby’s been quiet – by his lofty standards – as tonight’s goal and assist pushes him to 15 points in 20 games.

Phil Kessel‘s deserving of a lot of credit for the Penguins finding ways to win games and/or at least claim standings points lately. Tonight was a nice example. He helped the Penguins tie things up twice: setting up Crosby on the power play and scoring the 4-4 goal that sent the game to OT:

Kessel continues to lead the Penguins with 24 points in 20 games this season. He extended a five-game point streak that includes three multi-point games (four goals, five assists during that span). Such strong work makes you wonder why the alleged hot dog lover continues to find himself in trade rumors, even after helping the Penguins to two straight Stanley Cups with strong postseason performances.

For the Sabres, it’s yet another reminder that they still need to close some distance to catch up with contenders like Pittsburgh.

While Eichel must be flustered, Robin Lehner might be the angriest member of the team tonight, as he took the L despite saves like these:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sabres end Capitals’ streak on strength of Pouliot’s video-game goal

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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t made as much progress as they were hoping for so far in 2017-18, but that doesn’t mean that they lack some nice pieces.

On most nights, the best moments have come from the most obvious sources, as Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, and Jason Pominville have carried much of the offense.

Buffalo’s top guys certainly made an impact in tonight’s 3-1 win (Kane collected the 27th multi-goal game of his career, with the first coming thanks to a nice play by Eichel), yet management must feel nice to see a subtler addition scoring the game-winner.

After the Oilers bought out Benoit Pouliot, the Sabres snatched him up for cheap, and Pouliot showed why he was a nice value with his fifth goal of the season. If this kind of tally happened in “NHL 18,” less patient gamers might throw a controller:

Tremendous stuff. Alex Ovechkin‘s 13th goal of the season ended up being the only one that beat Robin Lehner on Tuesday. This improves Buffalo to 5-8-2, marking just its second win at home.

It sure seemed like the Capitals were a little sleepy in closing out a back-to-back set here. Barry Trotz can’t be happy about another significant penalty disparity, even if both teams failed to score on the PP (Washington went 0-for-1 while Buffalo failed on four opportunities).

[Trotz has complained about the Capitals’ discipline and officials’ calls before this season]

They’re now at 8-7-1 as a three-game winning streak comes to the end. They’ll get a few days off before two interesting home games: against the Penguins on Friday and the Oilers on Sunday.

They’ll need to bring a lot more energy into those efforts if they want to avoid slipping under .500.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks’ Labanc helped his father’s dream come true over the weekend

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–Check out the highlights from Buffalo’s 1-0 win over Detroit. Benoit Pouliot scored the only goal of the game and Robin Lehner came up huge for the Sabres. (Top)

Jonathan Quick was forced to come out of Monday’s game against the Leafs after an opponent made contact with his head. A concussion spotter asked for him to be checked and he was. All he missed was 36 seconds, which proves that the entire process still needs some work. (The Hockey News)

–Tough blow for the Canucks, as they’ll be without defenseman Troy Stecher for four to six weeks. He was injured on Sunday when he collided knee-on-knee with Detroit’s Tomas Tatar. (TSN.ca)

–Jake Virtanen has been living every young Vancouver hockey fan’s dream lately. He grew up cheering for the Canucks and watching the Sedins do their thing on a nightly basis. Now, he gets to skate on the same line as them. Oh and Virtanen scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Minnesota last night. (Vancourier.com)

–Here’s a cool story about the Islanders. When the Islanders usually have alumni reunions, they invite a dozen or so of their former players. But they had one last weekend and they welcomed anyone who put up an Islanders jersey. Even Mike MacWilliam, who played six games with the Isles, was there. (SNY.tv)

–Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland wrote a letter for Las Vegas in The Players’ Tribune. Engelland discusses how he ended up calling Vegas home and how difficult it was to watch the mass shooting that happened a few weeks ago. (The Players’ Tribune)

–Sean Avery has written a new book out! Not only does he talk about his career and his dating life, but he also roasted a couple of former teammates and opponents along the way. (Sports Illustrated)

–Predators forward Filip Forsberg has been one of the better scorers in the NHL over the last few years, but there’s a good chance he’s about to reach a new level over the next little while. He’s off to a hot start right now, and don’t be surprised if he scores 40 goals sometime soon. (fanragsports.com)

–The Ottawa Senators are a lot more comfortable in Guy Boucher’s system and it shows. As a team, they’ve been producing as a top notch offensive squad so far this season. (silversevensens.com)

–The Calgary Flames have taken quite a few penalties this year. And although their penalty-kill hasn’t given up too many goals, there is cause for concern, according to flamesnation.ca, who used advanced stats to show where they could get better. (flamesnation.ca)

–Roman Polak got a one year contract from the Leafs earlier this week, and most of the fan base seems to be split on him. Some like his hustle, while others who prefer analytics, feel like he’s nothing more than a liability. Is he still a useful player or should the leafs have taken a hard pass? (faceoffcircle.ca)

–Here’s a really nice story about Sharks forward Kevin Labanc and his father, Milan. Last weekend, Labanc played in his hometown of Brooklyn, where his father immigrated to 23 years ago. Watching his son play there was a dream come true for the older Labanc. “I have tremendous happiness to see Kevin reach the level of NHL hockey and play in his home town,” Milan Labanc said. “Whatever I started in hockey, when you see your kid continue it and you see your kid go further, that’s what every parent wants.” (Mercury News)

–The St. Louis Blues have had a decent start to the season, but it’s pretty clear that their special teams is holding them back. Their power play is ranked 24th, while their penalty-kill is ranked 27th. It needs to be better. (stlouisgametime.com)

–Team USA’s 1998 women’s hockey team was inducted into the Colorado Spring Sports Hall of Fame. As you may remember, that team which had Cammie Granato, Katie King, Sara DeCosta and many others, won the gold medal. (usahockey.com)

–Lucas Sbisa has emerged as an important blue liner for the Golden Knights this season. He’s the player that has gone up against the opposing team’s star forward on most nights. Believe it or not, it’s worked out pretty well so far. (sinbin.vegas)

Sidney Crosby started a trend when he put on number 87 because he was born in 1987. There’s a long list of players that have done that, but that’s going to be coming to an end in the very near future. (puckjunk.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sabres hand Red Wings their fifth straight loss

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Make that back-to-back wins for the Buffalo Sabres. A high-scoring comeback from three goals down, however, was not necessary this time.

Facing the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, the Sabres didn’t get plenty of scoring.

They didn’t need it this time, with Benoit Pouliot scoring the lone goal and the eventual winner midway through the second period. Robin Lehner stopped all 32 shots he faced for the shutout, as Buffalo held on to win 1-0.

It’s a small step forward for a team that had a listless effort at home against the Canucks last Friday and had only one victory through its first eight games of the new season, prompting star forward Jack Eichel to sound his displeasure with the Sabres’ losing ways, which have become far too constant, even before he showed up as the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2015.

Now, making it three wins in a row will prove a difficult feat, as the Sabres travel to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings are less than two weeks removed from their hot start (four wins in five games) to the season, a reminder that things can change quickly for some teams in the NHL once the chaos of the first few games begins to subside.

Detroit’s losing streak now stands at five games. They have scored only once over the past two games, and the risk of losing a sixth straight game is real as they travel to Tampa Bay to meet the red-hot Lightning on Thursday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

Looking to make the leap: Alex Nylander

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This post is part of Sabres Day on PHT…

It’s easy to see why Alex Nylander is eager for the season to get underway.

Nylander got a taste of the NHL by appearing in four games for Buffalo at the end of last year. Now, he wants more. That desire for extended action is likely fueled, in part, by a sibling rivalry — Alex’s older brother, William, posted a terrific rookie campaign in Toronto, scoring 22 goals and 61 points while finishing sixth in Calder voting.

The similarities between the two are striking,. Both were taken eighth overall in their respective draft years. Both appeared in at least 60 AHL contests before making their big league debuts.

And though William’s first “taste” of the NHL was bigger — 22 games, as opposed to Alex’s four — the blueprint was largely the same. Which is why Alex is gunning for a spot on Buffalo’s opening night roster this fall.

“[I’ve] learned new things to get better, and also to be more like a professional,” Nylander said at the Sabres’ prospect development camp, per the News. “I will definitely take that into September. I was working hard. Of course things I think I’ve done in the summer have helped me on the ice, and I’ve just got to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Nylander had a whirlwind ’16-17 campaign. There were highs — making his Sabres debut, finishing as the co-leading scorer at the World Juniors — but there were lows, too. The 19-year-old struggled at the AHL level, finishing with just 10 goals in 65 games for Rochester. Most chalked that up to a lack of strength and size (Nylander was ambitiously listed at 179 pounds last season), the same concerns some had with William prior to his breakout rookie campaign.

To be fair, William never struggled to score in the American League. He put up 77 points in 75 games with the Marlies.

As for Alex, his future will be decided by how he does in training camp and the exhibition season, but also how the battle for minutes at left wing shakes out. It’s one of the thinnest positions on Buffalo’s roster. Evander Kane is the unquestioned first-liner, and GM Jason Botterill is hopeful Edmonton castoff Benoit Pouliot can overachieve, and take the second-line spot.

After that? Nylander’s battling the likes of Matt Moulson, Nicolas Deslauriers and Justin Bailey. New head coach Phil Housley could also slide a center over to fill the void.

It’s important to remember, though, that Nylander could very well be AHL-bound. New GM Jason Botterill has stated the organization will take a more measured approach to prospect development than in years past, and is a big proponent of the American League. He had a ton of success grooming prospects in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while with the Penguins organization.

And at the end of the day, Nylander is still pretty much that — a prospect. A good one, sure, but one that also might need more seasoning.