Led by strong individual performances including Ramus Dahlin’s record-setting start to the season, the Buffalo Sabres have looked the part of a more formidable opponent than years past.
Dahlin scored for the fourth straight game — an NHL record for a defenceman to open the season — and Alex Tuch notched his first career hat trick as the Sabres handed the Calgary Flames their first loss of the season on Thursday night with a 6-3 victory.
“It’s crazy,” Dahlin said about his accomplishment. “I don’t know what to say really. It’s pretty crazy to think about it. There’s 78 games left. I’ve got more job to do.”
Selected first overall in the 2018 NHL draft, Dahlin’s hot start has helped Buffalo earn six of eight possible points to open the season.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, if they’re the toughest team in the league or super highly-skilled, we can play with anyone,” said Tuch, whose five goals is one off the league lead shared by Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov.
Dahlin is also second in the league in plus-minus at plus-six, one back of Vegas defenceman Shea Theodore.
“The guy is playing lights-out lately, not only offensively but defensively he’s not getting scored on at all out there,“ said Tuch. “He’s locking it down. He’s playing against their top lines and scoring against top lines and top d-pair.”
At just 22 years old, Dahlin is currently in his fifth NHL season.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be surprised with what Dahlin does,” said Sabres coach Don Granato. “He competes so well. He works in between games. He’ll be hard at work tomorrow morning. He’s relentless with his work ethic. He always keeps himself ready to take advantage of any opportunity he can.”
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter has also taken notice.
“Pretty dominant player for them. Probably the best player on the ice,” he said.
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After Flames winger Andrew Mangiapane opened the scoring 4:21 into the game, Dylan Cozens tied it for Buffalo at 6:14.
Four minutes later, Dahlin put the Sabres up for good as he cruised into the slot, took a pass from JJ Peterka and snapped a shot inside the goalpost.
Casey Mittelstadt’s breakaway goal — a perfectly placed backhander under the crossbar — made it 3-1 13:10 into the first period. Just 46 seconds into the second, Buffalo extended its lead to three.
Tuch scored on the very first shot Dan Vladar faced after entering the game in place of Jacob Markstrom, who was beaten three times on 12 shots in the opening 20 minutes. Vladar finished the game stopping 17 of the 19 shots he faced.
Meanwhile, Eric Comrie had 40 saves in the win.
The Flames felt as though they weren’t ready from the start.
“We didn’t have our legs, we weren’t skating. We weren’t competing well enough. They were more hungry than us,” said Nikita Zadorov, whose third-period goal briefly cut the lead to one goal before Tuch made it a three-goal game.
Trevor Lewis also scored for Calgary, which opened the season with impressive wins over Colorado, Edmonton and Vegas.
“You can’t take any team lightly, that’s for sure,” said Mangiapane. “I don’t think we played our game at all. Maybe a few spurts here and there but it wasn’t the best game from our group.”
The Flames were without defenceman Noah Hanifin (undisclosed injury). It resulted in Darryl Sutter having to make his the first lineup change of the season with rookie Connor Mackey inserted in his place. It also impacted the pairings with Nikita Zadorov moving up from the third pair to play alongside Rasmus Andersson, Hanifin’s normal defence partner. Hanifin is third on the team in average ice time (20:51). Mackey, 26, paired with veteran Michael Stone. It was Mackey’s 10th career NHL game.
JJ Peterka’s primary assist on Dahlin’s go-ahead goal gives him points in four straight games to begin his rookie season. That’s only been done once before in Sabres history by Victor Olofsson in 2019-20. Peterka, a 2020 second-round pick of the Sabres, hails from Germany where he played prior to coming to North America last season where he put up 68 points (28 goals, 40 assists) in 70 games to lead the AHL’s Rochester Americans in scoring. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in four games this season.
Sabres: Will look to make it a perfect 3-0-0 on its four-game road trip on Saturday in Vancouver against the Canucks.
Flames: Continue a season-high eight-game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
&© 2022 The Canadian Press
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