By Ryan J. Harr and Jourdon LaBarber for Sabres.com
After a thrilling 6-4 victory to open the Prospects Challenge Friday night at HarborCenter, the Buffalo Sabres were on the wrong side of a 3-1 score Saturday evening in front another sold-out electric crowd.
While the Sabres held a slim 35 to 31 shot-advantage against the Boston Bruins, they successfully killed off all seven penalties but could not capitalize on the five chances.
Losing but with a valuable lesson
While the outcome was unfavorable - a 3-1 loss - the lesson was valuable. Rochester Americans coach Chris Taylor said afterward that the difference between this outing and the one 24 hours prior, when the Sabres put up six goals against New Jersey, came down to his players simply trying to do too much.
WATCH: CHRIS TAYLOR POST-GAME
"That was a good team," Taylor said. "It was very valuable. A team like that, you can't turn pucks over at the blue line, they're going to come back at you. Like I said, a lot of individualized play for us. I didn't think we were as physical, especially in front of the net. We couldn't sustain to be there.
"We had a couple good shots there, a couple rebounds. We've got to fight a little bit harder to get to those areas and get those second and third opportunities."
WATCH: GAME HIGHLIGHTS
The Sabres met a Bruins roster that features seven players with full seasons of AHL experience under their belt, a valuable experience for Buffalo's younger players. The Bruins were tenacious and physical, limiting the Sabres' time and space to create plays.
Frederic Trent and Kuhlman Karlson scored first-period goals for the Bruins, and Karlson added another with the Buffalo net empty in the game's last minute.
"This was a very quick game tonight," Taylor said. "It was quicker than last night. I thought there was more pace to it. Boston, they're a good team. I knew they were going to be good, but I didn't know they were going to be this good. They frustrated our guys. It was very evident that they were frustrating us."
Taylor felt his players gave into that frustration by trying to create plays on their own. The Sabres created offense by taking what was given to them in their victory over the Devils on Friday, shooting to create rebounds and finding the open man when necessary.
"I think a lot of players want to make the play that puts their team ahead," forward Tage Thompson said. "Sometimes if you try too hard and try to do things on your own, it can end up costing you. I think I was a factor in that today a couple times, had a few turnovers that put us in bad situations.
"But we're not in the season yet so it's all about learning, having fun and trying new things out there. I think that's where you learn what works and what doesn't."
The Sabres have a chance to rebound in their Prospects Challenge finale against Pittsburgh on Monday, and Taylor will be looking for his team to put Saturday's lessons to good use.
WATCH: TAGE THOMPSON POST-GAME
"The biggest thing for me is take away from tonight's game with the individual play and use each other," Taylor said. "You can't go down one-on-three on guys and expect good things to happen. You've got to use each other.
"… We're going to show that on video. It's good lessons. Because if you do that in the NHL, it's going to be back in your end and back in your net. It's a good learning process and I'm glad it's happening now."
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was impressive in his first start of the Prospects Challenge, stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced. Taylor said he thought the second-round pick from 2017 looked calm while making the most of his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame.
"He's confident, you can tell that," Taylor said. "But again, he looked big. He looked in control of what he was doing. He didn't look sloppy, he didn't look like he was just going side-to-side. He looked like he was in much control."
Vasily Glotov has put his offensive skills on display at the Prospects Challenge before, and he managed to score Buffalo's only goal of the game in the first period after sitting out on Friday. Glotov deked his way between two defenders in the slot, then buried a shot from in-tight.
Glotov is entering his first pro season after signing a one-year AHL contract during the summer. The Prospects Challenge serves as his first chance to make an impression.
"It's a big opportunity for me," he said. "It's my first pro year. I need to impress coaches, I need to impress management doing my best and have a shot at main camp."
Guhle makes Prospect Challenge debut
After sitting out Buffalo’s victory last night, Brendan Guhle made his debut for the Sabres. The second-round selection (51st overall) in the 2015 NHL draft showcased his speed, slick puck movement and ability to join the rush, much like he did during his first full professional season between the Rochester Americans and Sabres.
“Obviously as a player, I wanted to play but it actually was good take in the game from the perspective of a fan,” said Guhle. “It was fun as the guys were playing hard for one another while feeding off the crowd’s energy last night.”
“He sat out of Friday's game as a healthy scratch mainly to give looks to lesser known players,” said Amerks head coach Taylor earlier in the day after morning skate. “As tough as it is to keep him out of the lineup, he is the type of player who understands because he has been here before (fourth Prospects Challenge).”
Special Teams through two games
Saturday night, the Sabres were whistled for seven penalties after being called for seven on Friday. Despite taking 14 infractions, the shorthanded unit has been able to successfully kill off all but one as they show a 92.8%.
On the flip side of a strong penalty kill unit, the power-play unit has drawn five penalties in each contest but have not been able to light the lamp.
Inches away on multiple chances
On Friday night, Thompson raced down a loose puck inside the offensive zone on a breakaway and gave the Sabres an insurance marker in their 6-4 victory.
Saturday night, the former first-round selection (26th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft tracked down another puck inside the opposition’s zone with defenders trailing him from behind. The result was nearly the same for Thompson, but his shot glanced off the right post just 3:11 into the contest.
Later on as the second-period clock was winding down, Casey Mittelstadt snuck in the back door but his shot went off the heel of his stick and time expired shortly afterwards.
Another missed opportunity came when Oskari Laaksonen emerged from the penalty box in the third period and was sent into the offensive zone all alone thanks to a long outlet pass from Alexander Nylander. The third-round selection in this year’s Draft took a few strides in the zone but his shot rang off left post of Boston netminder Dan Vladar.
During the third period, Victor Olofsson, who had a goal last night, ripped a shot and nearly tied the game but the puck went just high over the cross-bar.
Buffalo will conclude the Prospects Challenge Monday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. against Pittsburgh. The New Jersey Devils will take on Boston at 9:30 a.m. All games are at HarborCenter and you can buy tickets here.