Going into Thursday's game against the Sabres, the Vancouver Canucks probably didn't factor Torrey Mitchell into their game plan. They should have.
Mitchell, who hadn't scored in his last 28 games, delivered two goals, including the game-winner in the third period to lead the Sabres to a 6-3 win over the Canucks on Thursday night in Buffalo.
Brain Gionta capped off the win for the Sabres with an empty net goal at 19:58 to go along with his two assists on the night.
Michael Neuvirth let in three goals, but came up with the stops when it mattered most on the way to his sixth win of the year. Neuvirth stopped 28 shots on the night.
The Sabres (19-38-5) opened the scoring just over midway through the first period at 13:07. After Torrey Mitchell came up with a turnover in the neutral zone, Mitchell and Matt Moulson pulled off a nice give-and-go play, leading to a tap-in goal at the crease from Mitchell.
How beautiful was this? [GIF] #VANvsBUF pic.twitter.com/HpdR3RWCSV— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 27, 2015
Mitchell delivered his second goal of the night at 12:43 with a backhanded shot off a rebound. The scoring play started when Canucks (35-23-3) turned over the puck behind their own net. After a couple of shots on net couldn't get past Eddie Lack, Mitchell scored on a rebound opportunity before Lack was able to get across the crease. If you believe in Twitter jinxes, blame this guy.
The #Sabres are so bad - their first line centre is Torrey Mitchell. #Canucks— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) February 26, 2015
Eddie Lack had a tough night in net, giving up three goals in the third period alone, stopping just 18 of 23 shots (.783) he faced. According to John Garrett, head coach Willie Desjardins thought about starting Jacob Markstrom, but opted to go with Lack after his huge 40-save performance against the Bruins.
Early in the third period, the Sabres took a 3-2 lead when Andrej Meszaros used a screen by Brian Gionta to perfection, sending in a slap shot from the left face-off circle to put Buffalo ahead at 4:46. The unassisted goal was only the second of the year for Meszaros.
Meszaros goal. [GIF] #VANvsBUF pic.twitter.com/zlCpVYR3Dl— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 27, 2015
Did we mention the Sedins are on six-game point streaks now? #Canucks https://t.co/B1jfqIWJ5L— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) February 27, 2015
After getting a quick power play just 27 seconds into the game, the Sabres almost came up with the game's first goal. With Eddie Lack down, a mad scramble started in front of the net with the puck still loose. The goal light came on after the puck went past Lack and into the net, but it was quickly waved off as it was ruled Cody Hodgson batted the puck in with his glove. Buffalo had a wide open net at one point, but couldn't come up with a goal.
How you not score? pic.twitter.com/Z8Jl1AbO8j— Jason Botchford (@botchford) February 27, 2015
Weber's interference penalty wound up being the only one of the game for either team.
Just 62 seconds later, Shawn Matthias answered right back with his 15th goal of the year. When Matthias and Radim Vrbata skated into Buffalo's zone, Matthias made it look just enough like he was about to pass the puck off to Vrbata before wristing a shot past M. Neuvirth for the goal.
No look pass? Pff. Try no look goal. Matthias gets it done. #Canucks https://t.co/I8pPOQxPQA— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) February 27, 2015
Jannik Hansen gave the Canucks the lead at 5:42 in the second period with a slap shot from the top of Buffalo's zone. After a great effort by Dan Hamhuis to keep the puck in the zone, Hansen found some open ice at the point to unleash a shot on net to put Vancouver up 2-1.
This Hansen goal WAS the game-winner. Now someone else will have to score it for the #Canucks. https://t.co/hWtBI243Ni— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) February 27, 2015
Buffalo evened things up midway through the second period when Ronalds Kenins turned the puck over, creating a breakaway opportunity for Chris Stewart. Lack initially looked as if he had made a big save, but Stewart managed to knock the loose puck over the line with his skate just before Adam Clendening pushed it back out, tying the game at 8:59.
.@Cstew_80 flying to a breakaway & a goal. [GIF] #VANvsBUF pic.twitter.com/yKqlD6z0Wg— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 27, 2015
Stewart finished the night with one goal and one assist, but almost had a second goal just two minutes later on another breakaway opportunity. This time, Steward was denied by the post as his shot clanked off the iron.
The Canucks will look to rebound from the rough loss on Sunday night as they return home to Rogers Arena to face the St. Louis Blues. Seven of Vancouver's next nine games will be on home ice as we head into the final full month of the season.