There were some that expressed skepticism when the Buffalo Sabres signed center Tage Thompson to a long-term contract extension in July, but he has silenced critics by following up his breakout 68-point campaign in 2021-22 by averaging over a point-per-game this season. On Wednesday, Thompson entered the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy by tying a franchise record with five goals in a 9-4 thrashing of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 25-year-old tied Hockey Hall-of-Famer Dave Andreychuk’s 36-year-old club record by scoring four times in the opening period and one in the middle frame on Jackets goalies Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, but could not tie Darryl Sittler’s modern day six-goal performance from 1976 or Joe Malone’s seven-goal NHL record from 1920.
“That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really by the whole group, who set the table.” Sabres head coach Don Granato said after the game. “To have a history with Tage, seeing him as a teenager and watching his growth and development, it’s really special for me to be part of his success and to watch that happen. When you’ve seen a kid like him put the work in, it’s nice to see rewards like this.”
Through the first two months of the regular season, Thompson leads the Sabres with 40 points (4th in the NHL) playing on a line with veterans Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch, and with the performance against Columbus has moved just three behind NHL goal leader Connor McDavid and into fourth place in the scoring race behind McDavid, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, and Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson.
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Buffalo appears to be making progress this season, leading the NHL with 105 goals scored and with former #1 overall picks Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and 2019 first-round pick Dylan Cozens establishing themselves as franchise cornerstones, but the club is still near the bottom of the Eastern Conference due to defensive growing pains and inconsistency between the pipes with starter Eric Comrie injured and youngster Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen struggling.
“It hasn’t sunk in. I don’t think it will.” Thompson said. “The great and the bad part about it is you have a night like this, but tomorrow is a new day. You can’t be satisfied. Obviously, it’s a great achievement. 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.”
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