NEWARK, N.J. – Maybe if the Sabres had a full lineup, Saturday night’s game against the Devils would have been different. But based on the guys who played, the 4-2 victory by New Jersey was a just reward.
The Devils simply were better.
Not only were they better, they were better in every facet of the game. It wasn't unexpected as New Jersey improved to 7-1-2 in its last 10. The Sabres fell to 0-2-2 in their last four and 1-3-2 in the last six.
The Devils easily moved to 6-0-1 in Prudential Center, while the Sabres dropped to 4-3-2 on the road.
O’Reilly, Kulikov out: The Sabres once again played with a depleted lineup. Center Ryan O’Reilly, who missed Wednesday’s game against Ottawa and left Friday’s meeting with the Devils early, sat out with his middle-body injury. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov missed his second straight game with an injury. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said the players are day-to-day.
Left wing Cole Schneider joined the lineup in O’Reilly’s absence. Defenseman Justin Falk played his second straight game with Kulikov sidelined.
Three’s a crowd: The Devils needed just 4:01 to open the scoring. Defenseman Kyle Quincey’s shot from the left point traveled past the screen of three players, including two Sabres, before beating goaltender Robin Lehner. The Sabres fell to 1-6 when the opponent scores first. They are 4-0-4 when getting the first goal.
Short-lived tie: Before the opening faceoff of the second period, the refs had to separate the cantankerous duo of Marcus Foligno and the Devils’ Nick Lappin. Foligno got in another word four minutes later when he scored to tie the game at 1-1.
Brian Gionta created a turnover at Devils’ blue line, then passed to his right. The puck bounced left after hitting a New Jersey skate and landed on the stick of Foligno. He went in alone to rip a shot past goaltender Cory Schneider.
Revenge: Lappin needed less than three minutes to get the goal back. The Sabres missed the puck at their blue line, creating a two-on-one for the Devils. Taylor Hall fed Lappin, and he fired just under the crossbar with 6:11 off the clock.
Padding the lead: The Devils again went high to the glove side to make it 3-1 midway through the second. Damon Severson cut along the blue line with the puck and went cross-ice to goal-scorer Kyle Palmieri. The Sabres thought Severson’s move caused a teammate to go offside and challenged the play. The goal stood after video review.
Putting it away: With the teams playing four-on-four after a pair of penalties, the Devils took advantage. Adam Henrique fed John Moore during a rush, and the defenseman slipped a shot under Lehner with 13:28 to play to make it 4-1.
No power needed: Buffalo's Matt Moulson scored his team-best sixth goal with 10:17 left. For the first time, it wasn't on the power play. He got the puck in front and chipped it into the top corner.
Iron and wood: During the opening minute of the second, Falk nearly scored his first goal with the Sabres – twice. His shot from the point rung the post and bounced back to him. A prone Schneider reached out his stick to keep Falk’s second chance out of the net.
Hall of pain: Hall, the Devils scorer who is known for his speed and offense, threw the three biggest checks of the first period. He twice popped Buffalo defenseman Casey Nelson, then dazed blue-liner Rasmus Ristolainen near the end of the period with a shot into the boards.
Refs giveth, taketh away: Buffalo earned the first power play of the game when William Carrier used his speed to draw a high-stick from Jacob Josefson with six minutes gone. The man-advantage lasted just 30 seconds as Buffalo’s Evander Kane took a tripping penalty near center ice.
Counting the house: Military Appreciation Night included 100 soldiers lining the lower-bowl steps for the national anthem. The Devils announced a crowd of 16,514.
Next: After back-to-back outings and nine games in 15 nights, the Sabres will take Sunday off. They’ll return to practice Monday before flying to St. Louis for Tuesday’s game with the Blues. They’ll follow that with four straight homes games in KeyBank Center: Thursday against Tampa Bay; Saturday against Pittsburgh; Nov. 21 against Calgary; and Nov. 23 against Detroit.