Tage Thompson breaks his stick in frustration Saturday. ©2023, Micheline Veluvolu

Sabres’ Tage Thompson on stick snap: ‘You’re competitive, you want to score’

BUFFALO – Late in Saturday’s 3-1 win, Sabres winger Tage Thompson zoomed to the net and was so convinced he had scored on a backhander he raised his stick in celebration.

When the puck trickled in front of the crease seconds later, he appeared to have an easy goal as players scrambled around goalie Semyon Varlamov. But defenseman Noah Dobson quickly turned around and deflected the shot into the netting above the glass.

Thompson immediately looked up in disbelief and fell to his knees. He slammed his stick on the ice. When he got up, he broke his stick over his thigh, giving it the full Bo Jackson treatment.

“It was nothing to do with the way I was playing,” Thompson told the Times Herald prior to Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens at KeyBank Center. “I thought I was playing a great game. I thought our line was generating a lot.”

Thompson enjoyed a terrific night against the New York Islanders, pumping a career-high 10 shots on goal and attempting 14. He showcased instant chemistry beside Jordan Greenway and Dylan Cozens, his new linemates.

Still, in the moment, his inability to convert those two prime scoring chances frustrated Thompson, so he snapped his stick like Jackson used to break bats when he played for the Kansas City Royals.

“That was kind of one of those plays where I had a lot of shots on net already and a lot of looks and was pretty hungry to score,” Thompson said. “(I) thought I had a really good look there and missed, obviously, a wide-open net. …

“A little outburst there. I mean, it happens. You’re competitive, you want to score, you want to win.”

Entering Monday’s game, Thompson, who scored a career-high 47 goals and 94 points last year, had one goal, his only point in five games this season. He had a team-high 24 shots but just a 4.2 shooting percentage. Last season, he had a career-high 14.9 percent shooting percentage.

Soon or later, Thompson will likely begin burying those chances.

“You play like that with Tage’s skill, the inevitable is you’re going to start racking up some points,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.

Thompson said goals and points “come and go, they come in waves.”

“You get hot, you get cold a little bit, but as long as you’re playing the game the right way, doing the right things, attention to details, I think that’s all you can really ask for,” he said. “You do that, it’ll start to come for you.”

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