Zach Bogosian made a pretty good first impression in front of the home crowd in his Buffalo Sabres debut on Sunday.
In a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at First Niagara Center, the newly acquired defenseman registered 11 hits and two blocked shots in 24:49 of ice time. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the highest time on ice total that any player has ever led the team with in his Sabres debut.
He became the first Buffalo player to record at least 11 hits in a game this season as well.
His presence was felt right away when he laid a big hit on Philadelphia’s Chris VandeVelde behind the Sabres net midway through the first period.
“I try to bring the same style every night,” Bogosian said. “Your hands and feet might not be there every night, but if you can compete and play hard – I was matched up against their top line. You try to make it as hard as you can against them and I thought me and [Andre Benoit] did a pretty good job against them. It’s something we can build on.”
Buffalo acquired Bogosian in a blockbuster trade with Winnipeg on Wednesday. The Sabres also received forward Evander Kane – who will miss the remainder of the season due to shoulder surgery – and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, two prospects (Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux) and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
“He’s exactly what we ordered,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said of Bogosian. “That’s exactly the type of play we want to get to and maintain and have a whole group doing the same thing. We’re starting to get some bits and pieces of it. So it was good to see.”
While the Sabres were able to hang in against Philadelphia, the end result was not the desired one for the players and coaches. Matt Read and Michal Raffl scored for the Flyers and Ray Emery stopped 21 shots.
Nikita Zadorov tallied for Buffalo and Michal Neuvirth made 28 saves.
The Flyers took the lead 3:19 into the game off a faceoff win. Sean Couturier beat Zemgus Girgensons on the draw and the puck found its way back to the left point for Wayne Simmonds, who let a shot go. Read, parked in front of the net, deflected it in past Neuvirth to put the Flyers in the lead.
The Sabres responded with 6:03 remaining in the second period in the midst of a two-minute 5-on-3 power play. Zadorov, set up on the right point, took a feed from Rasmus Ristolainen and fired a puck on goal that hit twine.
It was Zadorov’s third goal of the season and he now has seven points (1+6) in his last seven games played. The marker was Buffalo's first 5-on-3 goal since March 23, 2013 when Thomas Vanek opened the scoring in a 2-1 win at Montreal.
“I like that spot and Risto set me up for a good shot,” Zadorov said.
The game-winner came unexpectedly with 7:15 left in regulation. Coming in from behind the net, Raffl found wide-open space in the crease and slipped one in past Neuvirth.
“I definitely lost an eye on the puck and it was a quick play behind the net,” Neuvirth said. “I’d definitely like that one back, but I’ve got to look at the video and learn from it.”
TAKING THE REIGNS
After Buffalo traded Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for a conditional third-round pick and goaltender Anders Lindback in the second trade they made on Wednesday, the No. 1 job has become Neuvirth’s to lose. Nolan has said that they’ll likely ride Neuvirth for the bulk of the remaining games as Neuvirth tries to prove he can be that reliable starting goalie.
“It feels nice. I’ve got to keep working hard and keep playing good and keep giving my team [a chance] to win a hockey game every time I play,” Neuvirth said.
NEXT STOP: NEW JERSEY
The Sabres will hope to take the lessons learned from this game into their two-game road trip, which begins Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. They’ll face the Flyers again on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
“We were right there. Philly, they’re a good team. I thought we competed hard,” Bogosian said. “We have to play that intense style every night. There seems to be a lot of guys in here that are willing to do that.”