Sabres Whiff on Power Play, Lose on Last-Second Goal at Pegula Ice Arena

Story posted September 26, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by John Petrolias

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sabres forward Evander Kane flew around the ice all game long. The speedy, veteran left-winger led his team with seven shots on goal and dictated the pace of play when he possessed the puck.

Yet one mistake with 33 seconds to go cost his team the game in an atmosphere that felt like a home game for Kane’s Sabres, despite traveling 200 miles from Buffalo.

Kane high-sticked Matt Dumba in a jostling match behind the Wild net, far away from the play, and was whistled for high-sticking. Both teams were playing four-on-four hockey at the time, but the Wild took advantage of the extra space.

Jason Zucker camped out in the right circle and awaited a tic-tac-toe pass from Matt Dumba. Zucker one-timed the puck, with just seconds to go, behind a sprawling Linus Ullmark in net for Buffalo, and the Wild capped off a 2-1 win despite trailing in shots all game and only registering four in the third period. The Sabres, meanwhile, failed to score on five power play opportunities, leaving the door open for Minnesota all night as Wild goaltender Alex Stalock stopped 39 of Buffalo’s 40 shots on his way to first star of the game.  

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma was not as worried about Kane’s penalty as some would believe. He contended that both players had sticks in-hand but Dumba took the worst of Kane’s aggressiveness.

“It’s a penalty 200-foot from our goalie, and I’m not sure in the regular season is called,” Bylsma said. “At that point in time we had five power play [opportunities], more than them, not totally unexpected, but I was more disappointed with our play three on four before we gave up that goal.”

Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons opened the scoring with a half-slap shot from the slot. Girgensons also made himself known with poise carrying the puck through the neutral zone and four shots on goal. Bylsma praised the Latvian forward for his development and grit beyond Monday’s game.

“He’s a heart-and-soul, gutsy kind of player,” Bylsma said. “A player who works hard in all the areas of the rink and bring it to the offensive zone. He’s going to get plenty of opportunity to do what he has to do tonight.”

The highlight of the night for Penn Staters in attendance, regardless of professional team affiliation, was the night itself. Pegula Ice Arena, which did not exist four years ago, played host to an NHL game for the first time. The two budding contenders showcased perhaps the most speed and skill that the Pegula rink has ever seen.

Terry and Kim Pegula, the arena’s donors and namesakes, were honored all evening. The Roar Zone, which normally chants “Hockey Valley” at the opening puck drop, audibled to “Thank you, Terry.” The Roar Zone also displayed a sign spanning the width of the rink reading “Thank you Terry and Kim Pegula” along the bottom of the glass. The Pegulas were recognized by everyone later in a video tribute with several Penn State hockey personnel offering thanks for the Pegulas’ donations and commitment to Penn State hockey.

The Buffalo Sabres were impressed with the Pegulas’ work.

“It was awesome,” Zemgus Girgensons said. “This facility is unbelieveable, the locker room and everything. The fans were loud and it was definitely fun to play here. It’s always better to play at home and this felt like a home game.”

Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson, who started and played the first two periods, was also impressed.

“I heard everyone say it was going to be a nice facility and it exceeded my expectations,” Nilsson said. “Great setup, and the fans here are really fortunate to have a great building and facility.”

John Petrolias is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He can be reached at jjp5551@psu.edu.