Predators dominated by Sabres on home ice.

Story written by Mark Harris

It was a battle between the team atop the league standings and the team in the basement of the standings on Saturday night and it was the last-place Buffalo Sabres that grabbed the lopsided win over the Nashville Predators.

It was a 3-3 contest less than halfway through the second period, but the Sabres’ power play exploded down the stretch helping them earn a 7-4 win.

Nick Bonino and Austin Watson led the way for the Predators as they each picked up a goal and an assist each. For Buffalo, Jack Eichel had a big night with five assists while Sam Reinhart registered his second career hat trick.

Eeli Tolvanen made his debut for the Predators and started the night on the first-line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson as Filip Forsberg was given a maintenance day. The 18-year-old finished the night with zero shots on goal and one hit in 13:34 of ice time including 1:17 of power play time.

How It All Went Down

The Sabres made it clear early on that they were going to their best to play spoiler as they got the scoring going just 43 seconds into the contest. Jason Pominville poked home the puck sitting out in front of Rinne for his 13th goal of the season.

Nashville was gifted its first power play chance of the night just over two minutes into the game and the Preds finally lit the lamp on the man advantage. P.K. Subban netted his 16th of the year, a new career high, with a blast from the point. The power play goal snapped a 1-for-16 stretch on the power play for Nashville.

Following the two early goals, the game actually settled down quite a bit with neither side finding too much sustained success offensively.

The deadlock was broken however with three minutes left in the frame when a Mattias Ekholm shot deflected in off of Watson for the forward’s 13th tally of the campaign.

Buffalo carried a 14-9 edge in the shots on goal category into the first intermission as well as a 9-5 advantage when it came to scoring chances.

The trend of scoring early in the period continued into the second period.

At the two minute mark of the frame, Kyle Turris slid into the slot where Craig Smith found him with a slick pass and Turris buried the opportunity to make it a 3-1 contest.

Then, 4:37 into the period, Buffalo was handed its second power play chance of the night and made it count.

Jack Eichel fired off a shot that was blocked by a stick and the puck fell right to Ryan O’Reilly to the left of Pekka Rinne and the center scored it to make it a one-goal affair again.

The O’Reilly goal gave the Sabres a bit of a boost it appeared as they are able to tie things up at 3-3 less than two minutes later.

The goal came off of another deflection out in front with Evan Rodgrigues’ pass hitting off of the stick of Mike Fisher which left the puck for Kyle Okposo to snipe one past Rinne.

Bonino broke the tie yet again for Nashville with a backhanded shot that beat Chad Johnson with 7:10 left in the period.

Following the Bonino goal, everything changed.

Scott Hartnell landed a hit on Victor Antipin behind the net and the blue liner immediately went to the ice. He didn’t seem to be making any movements and was stretchered off of the ice; Hartnell was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. This left the Predators without two forwards for the remainder of the night as Viktor Arvidsson left during the second period with an apparent injury.

The Sabres made the five-minute power play count to save the very least. Buffalo netted three goals on the man advantage to take a 6-4 lead into the second intermission. Sam Reinhart netted the first two goals while Okposo netted the third with one minute left in the period giving Buffalo its fourth power play goal of the evening.

Juuse Saros took over for Rinne to start the third period after Rinne allowed six goals on 29 shots faced.

Reinhart completed the hat-trick with 11:43 left in regulation to give the Sabres a 7-4 lead throwing even more salt into Nashville’s wound. He completed the hat trick in a stretch of just 13:13 of action.

Reinhart’s tally was the final one of the night in which the Sabres dominated the Preds on home ice.

Both sides managed 36 shots on net, but special teams proved to be the gigantic difference as the Sabres finished the night going 4-for-10 on the man advantage. In all situations, Buffalo created 29 scoring chances compared to only 20 from the Predators.

Nashville turns right back around on Sunday to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on the road in a huge matchup atop the league standings. The puck will drop at 5:00 p.m. CST.

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