ST. LOUIS – Take back the Christmas presents. Give the Buffalo Sabres lots of coal for the second period Thursday night.
In a scoreless tie at the first intermission, the Sabres got blitzed for three goals in the first 11 minutes of the middle period and couldn't catch up in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Enterprise Center.
It was the Sabres' seventh straight loss in the Arch City, where they are 0-5-2 since last winning in 2009. The Blues have taken 12 of the last 13 games in the series overall.
Robert Thomas, Jay Bouwmeester and Patrick Maroon all scored in the second on Carter Hutton, playing his first game in goal against the Blues since signing with Buffalo as a free agent in July. The tallies by Bouwmeester and Maroon came 54 seconds apart.
At one point in the second period, St. Louis had outshot the Sabres, 9-3, and out attempted them, 19-4, in turning Hutton's end of the rink into a shooting gallery. It was the stretch of the game that proved decisive.
Breaking the ice: Rookie Robert Thomas opened the scoring at 2:03 as he took several jams of a loose puck under Hutton and got credit when the goalie had it squirt under his arm and over the goal line. It was the third goal of the season for Thomas, the former St. Louis first-round draft pick the Blues would not include in the package to Buffalo to acquire Ryan O'Reilly in July.
Double trouble: Bouwmeester made it 2-0 with his first goal of the season at 10:01, finding all kinds of open ice down the slot to take a David Perron pass and beat Hutton. Maroon backhanded a Thomas pass off Hutton's arm at 10:55 as he stood unguarded just to the goalie's right.
Brutal coverage in the middle here. https://t.co/rtL5I29pYa
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) December 28, 2018
Jack attack: The Sabres got the deficit to two goals at 17:25 as Jack Eichel's snapshot on a power play cleanly beat Jake Allen. It was Eichel's 15th goal of the season and first of his career against St. Louis. The only NHL teams left for him to score against are Atlantic Division foes Florida and Montreal.
The clincher: O'Reilly made it 4-1 at 13:49 of the third with his 14th of the season, chipping the puck around Zemgus Girgensons and going in alone to beat Hutton on the blocker side.
Reunions: O'Reilly and Hutton were the headliners in a game featuring reunions of former teammates but there were plenty of other connections as well. Buffalo forwards Tage Thompson and Vladimir Sobotka, acquired as part of the return for the deal, were in the Sabres lineup. Joining O'Reilly in the St. Louis dressing room were forward Jordan Nolan, his teammate in Buffalo last season, and defenseman Chris Butler, who played for the Sabres from 2008-2011.
Hutton on St. Louis: "I loved it here. There were some ups and downs but it was an amazing city. People were great. Our son was born here so it's something that will always be close to us."
Thompson on St. Louis: "It's exciting to be back. It was a very special feeling getting drafted here and getting an opportunity with St. Louis to make my dream come true of playing in the NHL. I have them to thank for that."
Lineup news: Jason Pominville did not make the trip, with coach Phil Housley saying the winger remains day to day and didn't come for the one-day jaunt because there was no practice time as part of the trip. He has missed three games after a collision with Rasmus Ristolainen Dec. 18 against Florida. Nathan Beaulieu (lower body) took the morning skate and sat as a healthy scratch. He has missed five games.
In the broadcast booth: Dan Dunleavy did the play-by-play Thursday on MSG and WGR Radio, as originally scheduled prior to the season. Rick Jeanneret, who spent Saturday night in Buffalo General Medical Center after falling ill during the game against Anaheim, was released on Sunday and is expected to resume his schedule Saturday night against Boston in KeyBank Center.
Up next: The Sabres will practice Friday and host the Bruins at 7 p.m. Saturday night. It's a doubleheader, with the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League playing their first game in the downtown arena in a 2 p.m. faceoff against the Minnesota Whitecaps. Tickets for the Beauts game only are $20. Fans with tickets to the Sabres game in the evening will be admitted free to the women's game.