Sabres drop Prospects Challenge finale to Pittsburgh 5-3

September 11, 2017 - 6:34 pm

This game was for all the marbles at the 2017 Prospects Challenge at HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York. A Buffalo Sabres win meant their second tournament win in the three years it has been held. A Pittsburgh Penguins win would give them their first Prospects Challenge win in their first year of participation.

The Sabres powerplay, which had scored five goals against the Boston Bruins on Saturday, added three more tallies against the Penguins on Monday night. However, the Penguins battened down the hatches in the final 20 minutes, and get the go-ahead goal in the third to beat the Sabres 5-3. 

The Sabres and Penguins entered the final game each sitting with a win and an overtime loss in the standings. Buffalo dropped their opening game on Friday, 4-3 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils, but bounced back with a 7-4 win on Saturday over the Bruins. The Penguins come in also dropping their tournament opener in overtime to Boston, before rebounding with a 6-2 win over the Devils on Saturday.

The Sabres were without 2016 first round pick Alexander Nylander, who did not play as a precaution with a lower-body injury. However, the Sabres were able to grab the 7-4 win over Boston without Nylander in the lineup.

The only lineup changes for Buffalo on Monday came with forward Eric Cornel returning after being a healthy scratch on Saturday. He'll play for 2016 sixth round pick Brandon Hagel. Also, defensemen Austin Osmanski and Carl Neill return to the blue line for Devante Stephens and Anthony Florentino.

Like the past two games in the tournament, the Sabres got out to a slower start than the opposition. The Sabres struggled to put a shot on goalie Alex D'Orio through the first six minutes of the first period.

On Saturday, the Sabres powerplay dominated the Devils with five goals on eight man advantages. At the 13:08 mark on Monday, the Sabres got their first crack on the powerplay after defenseman Connor Hall goes off for cross-checking.

It only took 42-seconds for the Sabres to convert as defenseman Brendan Guhle lets go of a one-time slapshot from the point that beats D'Orio through a screen. Hudson Fasching was providing the screen in front of the net, and D'Orio never saw the shot.

The Sabres nearly escaped the period with the 1-0 lead, but the Penguins put on some late pressure in the final minute of play. Finally, the Penguins beat goalie Jonas Johansson with a goal from Thomas Di Pauli. Di Pauli cleaned up the loose change in front of the net after a shot off the stick of defenseman Zachary Lauzon.

The period ended with the score tied 1-1, and the Penguins leading in shots, 16-9.

The Sabres got the early chances in the second period, but could not find a way to get the puck past D'Orio in net. The best chance early came from forward Colin Blackwell as he moved his way in on goal after a blocked shot off the stick of Hudson Fasching. Blackwell went to the backhand on D'Orio, but his shot hit the post.

The Sabres were tested at the 6:55 mark of the second while already on the penalty kill. Cliff Pu takes a faceoff violation and puts the Sabres in a 5-on-3 penalty kill situation for 1:58.

Buffalo was a second away from killing off the first penalty to defenseman Austin Osmanski, but a point shot from Dylan Zink is tipped through the five-hole of Johansson by Zach Aston-Reese. Buffalo was able to kill off the second penalty to Pu.

After another Penguins penalty a minute and a half later, the Sabres capitalize on the powerplay for the second time. This time, it was Justin Bailey using his speed and hands to walk his way through the defenders and let go of a quick shot that beats D'Orio through the five hole.

Nearly four minutes after Bailey's goal, Pittsburgh put themselves back on top thanks to a fluky bounce off a Sabres defender. Defenseman Lukas Bengtsson let go of a shot from the point that pinballed around and somehow bounced in behind Johansson.

With time running out in the period, the Penguins went back to the penalty box for the third time on the night as Lauzon was penalized for slashing. It did not take long for the Sabres to convert on their third chance of the night as C.J. Smith got the score even again at 3-3.

Pu started the play when he made a diving effort to keep the puck alive for the Sabres. Bailey came in for support and got the puck back to the point for Guhle. Guhle then feed a perfect cross-ice pass on the tape of Smith, who lets go of a one-timer that beats D'Orio past the glove hand.

The Sabres went to the intermission tied 3-3, but still being heavily out-shot by the Penguins by a 34-17 total.

Things started to come apart for the Sabres in the third period, while the Penguins shored up their game and stayed out of the penalty box.

In the third, Buffalo took three penalties to give the Penguins some valuable time on the attack on the powerplay. Even though the Sabres did kill off all three Pittsburgh chances, it hurt the Sabres chances of staying in the game.

Pittsburgh went back ahead at the 9:51 mark of the third period with a goal from Jan Drozg, and they did not turn back. Drozg entered the zone with the puck and cut towards the faceoff circle to the left of Johansson. Drozg let a quick shot go that beat Johansson to the far side, and the Sabres were unable to recover from that point.

Once again, the Penguins dominated the pace of play by out-shooting the Sabres 16-9 in the period. Overall, Buffalo was out-shot on the night by a 50-26 total.

Aston-Reese added an empty-netter with about 18-seconds to go to give Pittsburgh their first ever tournament win at the Prospects Challenge.

Check out the full box score and analysis below:




  • 1-0 Buffalo - Sabres powerplay goal (13:50)

Sabres defenseman Brendan Guhle lets go of a one-timer on the powerplay that beats goalie Alex D'Orio through a screen in front of him. Cliff Pu and C.J. Smith are credited with the assists on the powerplay goal.

  • 1-1 TIE - Penguins goal (19:45)

With time running out in the period, the Penguins apply pressure in front of Sabres goalie Jonas Johansson. After a shot from defenseman Zachary Lauzon is stopped, forward Thomas Di Pauli cleans up the rebound to tie the game. Frederik Tiffels is credited with the secondary assist on the goal.



  • 0-0 TIE - Sabres penalty (9:49)

Sabres forward Justin Danforth is charged with a trip and goes to the penalty box for two minutes. Buffalo successfully kills off the penalty.

  • 0-0 TIE - Penguins penalty (13:08)

Penguins defenseman Connor Hall is penalized for a cross check in the Buffalo zone.


End of Period

Goal Summary:
 Guhle (2) - PP
PIT: Di Pauli (2)

Penalty Summary:
 Danforth - Tripping (2-min.)
PIT: Hall - Cross-Checking (2-min.)

Shots on Goal:
 9; PIT - 16




  • 2-1 Pittsburgh - Penguins powerplay goal (8:52)

Just as the Sabres are about to kill off a 5-on-3 man advantage for the Penguins, Pittsburgh gets a tip-in goal from forward Zach Aston-Reese. The assists on the play are credited to Dylan Zink and Adam Johnson.

  • 2-2 TIE - Sabres powerplay goal (10:48)

Justin Bailey takes a pass from Brendan Guhle in the neutral zone, splits the defenders and lets go of a shot that beats D'Orio through the five-hole. It is Buffalo's second powerplay goal of the game. Guhle is credited with the lone assist on the goal.

  • 3-2 Pittsburgh - Penguins goal (14:30)

A point shot from defenseman Lukas Bengtsson pinballs around, banks off a Sabres player and in behind Johansson for the goal. Jordy Bellerive is credited with the lone assist on the goal.

  • 3-3 TIE - Sabres powerplay goal (19:15)

The Sabres powerplay continues to roll with their third goal of the game. This time, it was C.J. Smith letting go of a one-timer from Brendan Guhle to get his second goal of the tournament. Justin Bailey is credited with the other assist on the powerplay tally.



  • 1-1 TIE - Sabres penalty (4:27)

Sabres forward Colin Blackwell is assessed a roughing penalty after getting the hands up on a Penguins player during a scrum in front of the Pittsburgh net. The Sabres are successful in killing off the penalty.

  • 1-1 TIE - Sabres penalty (6:53)

Sabres defenseman Austin Osmanski is penalized two minutes for slashing.

  • 1-1 TIE - Sabres penalty (6:55)

Sabres center Cliff Pu is given two minutes for a faceoff violation just two-seconds into the penalty kill. The Sabres were able to kill of the penalty to Pu.

  • 2-1 Pittsburgh - Penguins penalty (10:21)

Penguins forward Jan Drozg hooks Nick Baptiste on a Sabres rush and goes off to the box for two minutes.

  • 3-2 Pittsburgh - Penguins penalty (18:59)

Penguins defenseman Zachary Lauzon is called for slashing and heads to the penalty box with about a minute to play in the period.


End of Period

Goal Summary:
 Bailey (2) - PP; Smith (2) - PP
PIT: Aston-Reese (1) - PP; Bengtsson (1)

Penalty Summary:
 Blackwell - Roughing (2-min.); Osmanski - Slashing (2-min.); Pu - Faceoff Violation (2-min.)
PIT: Drozg - Hooking (2-min.); Lauzon - Slashing (2-min.)

Shots on Goal:
 8 (17); PIT - 18 (34)




  • 4-3 Pittsburgh - Penguins goal (9:51)

Penguins forward Jan Drozg enters the Sabres zone, cuts to the top of the left faceoff circle and fires a quick wrist shot that beats Johansson blocker side. Sam Miletic and Zachary Lauzon are credited with the assists.

  • 5-3 Pittsburgh - Penguins empty-net goal (19:42)

Zach Aston-Reese scores his second goal of the night into an empty net to seal the deal for the Penguins. Assists were given to Teddy Blueger and Jordy Bellerive.



  • 3-3 TIE - Sabres and Penguins penalties (4:21)

After a scrum breaks out to the right of the Sabres bench, Sabres defenseman Austin Osmanski and Penguins defenseman Connor Hall are both given roughing minors. Play resumed at 4-on-4 for two minutes.

  • 3-3 TIE - Sabres penalty (7:15)

Justin Bailey is penalized for roughing after getting his hands and stick up on a Penguins defender. The Sabres were successful in killing off the penalty.

  • 4-3 Pittsburgh - Sabres penalty (10:01)

Moments after the Penguins score the go-ahead goal, defenseman Austin Osmanski flips the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. Buffalo is able to kill off the penalty.

  • 4-3 Pittsburgh - Sabres penalty (16:26)

Sabres invitee Arvin Atwal is called for holding and was sent to the box for two minutes. The Sabres kill off the penalty with time running out in the game.

  • ​5-3 Pittsburgh - Sabres and Penguins penalties (19:42)

After the Penguins score an empty-net goal, a scrum breaks out along the boards next to the Sabres bench. Buffalo defenseman Arvin Atwal and Pittsburgh defenseman Connor Hall are both assessed 10-minute misconducts.


End of Regulation

Goal Summary:
PIT: Drozg (1); Aston-Reese (2) - ENG

Penalty Summary:
 Osmanski - Roughing (2-min.); Bailey - Roughing (2-min.); Osmanski - Delay of Game (2-min); Atwal - Holding (2-min.); Atwal - Misconduct (10-min.)
PIT: Hall - Roughing (2-min.); Hall - Misconduct (10-min.)

Shots on Goal:
9 (26); PIT - 16 (50)


Penguins - 5; Sabres - 3


Game Notes:

  • The Penguins dropped their Prospects Challenge opener on Friday with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins
  • Pittsburgh responded with a dominant performance on Saturday, beating the New Jersey Devils 6-2

BUF - Johansson - 45 saves
PIT - D'Orio - 23 saves

Power Plays:
 3 for 3 (100%)
PIT - 1 for 7 (14.3%)

Three Stars:
1.) Zach Aston-Reese
2.) Jan Drozg
3.) Jonas Johansson

What's Next:

The Sabres will report to training camp on Thursday before holding their first open practice on Friday. Buffalo will next be in game action next Monday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. We'll have the call of the game for you on WGR Sports Radio 550!

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