Tage Thompson is turning into the star the Buffalo Sabres hoped for when they acquired him in 2018.
Coming off a historic offensive performance, Thompson will try to stay hot and help the Sabres to a third straight win overall while facing the visiting Penguins on Friday.
After posting career highs in goals (38), assists (30) and points (68) in 2021-22, his fifth NHL season, Thompson has built on that success through the first two months of the current campaign. With 21 goals and 40 points in 26 games this season, the 6-foot-7, stick-handling standout ranks among the league’s offensive leaders.
For the second time this season, Thompson posted a six-point game and joined Dave Andreychuk as the only Sabres to score five goals in a contest during Wednesday’s 9-4 road rout of Columbus.
Thompson registered five of those points (four goals, one assist) 16:40 into the game, making him the only Buffalo player with five points in a period. He was the fourth player in league history with a four-goal first period.
Thompson, who posted a hat trick and three assists against the Detroit Red Wings on Halloween, has eight goals with six assists during a five-game point streak. Meanwhile, Buffalo has scored 43 goals during its current 5-2-1 stretch that followed an eight-game losing streak.
“The great and the bad part about it is you have a night like this, but tomorrow is a new day,” Thompson said. “You can’t be satisfied.
“You want to be happy for yourself, but at the same time, there’s more to do. We’re not where we want to be as a team, and it’s my job to help us get there.”
The Sabres have won three in a row twice this season. The most recent of those runs concluded with a 6-3 home victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 2. Thompson had a goal and assist, both coming while the Sabres scored five unanswered third-period goals to erase a 3-1 Penguins lead.
Thompson has five goals and one assist over his last six home games versus Pittsburgh, which has yielded 22 goals during its current 8-1-1 stretch. The Penguins just won three straight to conclude a 3-1-1 home stretch and now return to the road, where they own a 30-16 goal-advantage during their current 6-0-1 run. That followed a 1-5-1 opening rut away from home.
Pittsburgh’s most recent victory also came against Columbus, 4-1 on Tuesday. Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby scored twice — giving him nine goals with 10 assists over his last 11 contests. Crosby already has 15 goals after scoring 31 all last season.
“Sometimes we just shake our heads with his creativity and how he thinks the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “But I do think that it probably gets overlooked because he’s such a good passer, and every other aspect of his game is so good, sometimes the actual pure, goal-scoring part of it gets overlooked.”
Crosby has 77 points in 54 career games versus Buffalo, but none came in last month’s meeting.
Teammate Casey DeSmith (3.00 goals-against average) made 27 saves in that contest. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh starter Tristan Jarry has a 1.85 goals-against average during his current 7-0-1 stretch.
Buffalo’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has a 4.01 goals-against average in all three December starts. Meanwhile, Sabres veteran Craig Anderson (2.87) hasn’t started since Nov. 30.