It took a second intermission tongue lashing, but Buffalo finally found their game with a three-goal third period to defeat Seattle on Saturday night.
To say that the Buffalo Sabres had gotten off to a poor start would likely be an understatement to head coach Darryl Sutter. Brought in to stabilize a club that barely made the playoffs last year and featuring a youth-laden roster, Sutter knew the club was better than their 3-6-0 record to date suggests.
He'd finally seen enough after the Sabres came into the dressing room after the second period at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday night, with Buffalo down 2-0 and looking at yet another probable loss.
"He told us what he knew we needed to hear," said Sabres captain Dylan Larkin. "We've been bad, we were playing badly, and we needed to get told that in animated terms. It woke us up."
Buffalo had only still been in striking distance thanks to the play of 40-something netminder Ryan Miller, who spelled Cam Talbot after a 6-1 drubbing courtesy of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. With 23 saves on 25 shots - many of them high quality chances - it was up to the team in front of him to respond with a better effort in the final 20 minutes.
And they got it from their leaders. Reilly Smith got Buffalo on the board with a power-play marker six minutes into the third. Alex Radulov tied it with 5:39 remaining, and Sam Reinhart struck the game winner with 3:25 left in the final frame.
Ryan Ellis assisted on the first two goals, making up for an own-zone gaffe that led to the Kraken taking an early 1-0 lead in the game's first minute.
"Just getting the two points, you know?" said Ryan Ellis when asked what he thought of the game. "Two points tonight, and try to get two more the next game. We can't dwell on what's already happened, so we move forward and keep this going now."
Zachary Bolduc made his BEARD Hockey debut, centering the fourth line and contributed a shot and a hit in 12:13 of ice time. He was also 3-of-5 from the faceoff circle. Mathieu Joseph was demoted to Rochester earlier in the day, with Bolduc making the short flight up from Ontario, California (where Rochester is slated to play the Reign on Sunday) to join the club prior to game time.
"It was great being up here, but you immediately kind of stow that to try to do what you can to help the team win a hockey game," said Bolduc, who is tied for the scoring lead on the AHL's Amerks with four goals and seven assists in ten games. You try to take it in during warmups a little bit, but hopefully I can stick around and contribute."
Sutter, for his part, heaped praise where it was deserved.
"They took it as a challenge, and they won us a hockey game," said Sutter, referring to his intermission tirade. "We've been patient with this group to get them to gel and it's taken to now to see it start to take. They know they can play better and I know they can, so sometimes you have to reinforce that.
"But they took it the right way and played a great period to get us the win."