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All tricks, no treats: Tage Thompson spoils Halloween with 8-3 demolition of Detroit

Detroit Red Wings v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images

Boo!

No, that’s not the sound of the Buffalo crowd. Not yet, at least. It’s Halloween, and the only thing scarier than the Sabres drafting first overall again is watching the Red Wings lose the lottery for the millionth time.

The Red Wings and Sabres are in very similar situations. Both have a core of young forwards that are slowly adjusting to bigger roles. Both feature new free agent signees who have breathed new life into the team. To top things off, both have managed to stay afloat in a highly competitive Atlantic Division. Oh, and neither team dressed up for Halloween. Sad!

There are a few differences, however. The Sabres’ starting goaltender, Craig Anderson, is the oldest goaltender in the NHL behind Mike Smith. Before this game, he led the NHL in save percentage, rocking a lights-out .946% in three games. Rasmus Dahlin, the team’s top defenseman, is playing like a first overall pick. The Red Wings seem to be adjusting to the turbulence of big wins and big losses. Lucas Raymond’s two-goal masterclass suggests a sign of greater things to come.

How did tonight’s tilt against Buffalo shake out?

Gather round, friends. Let me tell you the story of Game 11.

1st period

Ken Daniels starts the game off with a fun fact: the Wings have a four-game winning streak against the Sabres over the last season. Neat! Hopefully this streak continues. Early pressure from the Erne-Larkin-Raymond line keeps the puck almost exclusively in the Sabres’ defensive zone. The Wings appeared to have an answer for every tactic the Sabres came out with early on. Alex Nedeljkovic, the night’s starting goalie, blocked his first shot at just under five minutes into the game. His game against New Jersey was less-than-ideal; this game against Buffalo is hopefully enough to alleviate some worries for him.

Tage Thompson gets an early chance against Ned, but to no avail. Filip Zadina attempts to set up a goal, only to...immediately lose the puck. The former sixth overall pick has yet to score a single point through six games so far. A too-close-for-comfort chance in front of Filip Hronek nearly nets the Sabres an early first-period goal.

Despite the couple solid chances, overall, the Sabres haven’t had many good opportunities due to some succinctly solid coverage from the defensive corps. Mickey Redmond’s early jokes about the Leafs add some spectacular levity to the game. Tage Thompson attempts another shot, a small scuffle begins, and Ned makes another big save. Another rough Zadina turnover nearly causes a goal. Through the halfway mark, the shots were 8-4 in Buffalo’s favor. Their slow start quickly went the other way as former first overall pick Owen Power showed some of his stuff, setting up nearly all of the Sabres’ chances alongside Dahlin.

Gustav Lindstrom’s great defensive effort shuts down a JJ Petkara near-breakaway. It’s great to see him pick up on some of the lessons learned from last season. Matt Luff gets a chance at a breakaway, but, without enough speed, is unable to make an impact. Mickey Redmond had another great joke, calling the game a “real barn burner” through nearly 20 scoreless minutes. Unfortunately, that joy would not last, as a Tage Thompson snipe and lackluster effort from Robert Hagg puts the Sabres up 1-0.

Immediately after, the Red Wings wind up shorthanded for a Perron penalty. The good news is, their advantage didn’t last long — interference on Moritz Seider set the squads up for some 4-on-4 action. Booing from the Buffalo crowd? On Halloween? Spooky stuff. Some great hustle from Suter and Maatta helped to give the team a chance, but it wasn’t enough to even the odds.

2nd period

The team didn’t wait long to push back. With a really fantastic setup from Copp, Olli Maatta makes it 1-1!

Copp appears to have shaken off the early season woes, and, if he continues to expand this role, every free agent signee this offseason will have proven to be a success. That’s a good thing, right? It feels almost unusual to talk about it this way. Maatta has six points in eight games now. Last season with the Kings, he had just eight. That’s good, right? Doesn’t it feel good to have every single free agent signee play well?

Wait, nevermind.

Robert Hagg botched a second assignment, setting up Jack Quinn for his first goal of the season. 2-1 Buffalo. A weirdly aggressive check from a Sabre sets up a scuffle between Raymond and the rest of the Sabres. Lalonde probably could’ve challenged the goal, but it doesn’t look like that’s on the agenda for tonight.

The team just doesn’t seem to play well with Ned in the net. Through the halfway mark, shots were 9-22 in BUffalo’s favor. Thankfully, Nedeljkovic’s ability to read plays worked out as he covered for Hronek’s defensive lapse. Shortly after, Soderblom was knocked to the ice, but quickly got up and battled for the puck for the rest of his shift. This is his ninth game before his entry level contract’s first year is spent. When he’s on, he’s on, and this shift was no exception. It will be interesting to see what the Wings decide happens to him moving forward. For now, this writer believes he’ll fit in just fine with the Red Wings moving forward.

Jeff Skinner left very little to be desired, scoring his 300th career goal, making it 3-1 Buffalo.

Great.

Oh, and another penalty kill.

Better make that two! Ben Chiarot’s delay of game puts the team on a very long 5-on-3 penalty kill at the end of the third. The team was able to exorcise its first penalty, but was no match for another Thompson goal. 4-1, Buffalo.

Thankfully, not all was lost. David Perron brings the Red Wings within two thanks to a Seider setup. 4-2!

3rd period

More sloppiness from the defense as Owen Power nearly sets up an assist for Skinner. Ned came out SWINGING in the third; a kick save prevented the team from further falling down the deficit with little help from the defense. Unfortunately, his shove on Cozens set the team shorthanded again with Matt Luff serving the penalty.

Thankfully, Pius Suter’s work at the penalty kill did enough to keep the hole from further expanding. Worry not, friends — the power play would prove fruitless for the Sabres as Dylan Larkin scores his fifth of the season! 4-3!

Nedeljkovic has faced nearly 40 shots. He’s been one of the only reasons the team isn’t down 7-3 (yet!!!). Soderblom played a quick shift with Larkin; while it wasn’t more than a few seconds, it did leave many wondering what a Soderblom-Larkin-Raymond line would look like. The thing that separates this team from the team last year is that deficits don’t cause the team to shut down. Rather than cower in the face of adversity, they’ve worked, hustling even in the face of a potential loss.

Both teams head to 4-on-4 hockey again. At least this was a great exercise in special teams play, right? Not much happened until Joe Veleno was called for boarding, leaving the team with a very rare 4-on-3 formation. A bad pass from Dahlin saved a potentially painful goal from occurring. With Larkin out of the box, the team continued to battle against the odds. Unfortunately, their efforts would not prove fruitful. Dahlin redeems himself, scoring off a bad Nedeljkovic rebound. 5-3 Buffalo.

The pain would continue shortly after as Dylan Cozens blew past Chiarot, firing in another goal. 6-3.

The team just cannot play in front of Nedeljkovic to save their lives.

Just a few minutes later, Tage Thompson AGAIN dangles Ned out of his skates, scoring his hat trick and sixth point of the night.

7-3.

Wait. Make that 8-3.

This was not a fun night to cover.