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Nilsson, Sabres win 10-round shootout in Anaheim

Eichel, O'Reilly play as linemates; Fedun leaves with injury

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

ANAHEIM - Dan Bylsma said he had eight names written down on his coach's card in the event of a shootout on Friday. On most nights, eight names would be enough. 

Friday was not most nights. 

Rasmus Ristolainen scored on the ninth attempt of the shootout to keep the game alive and Zemgus Girgensons netted the winner one shot later to clinch a 2-1 victory for the Buffalo Sabres over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. 

 Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Ducks

Anders Nilsson made eight saves in the shootout, making him the winning netminder now in both of Buffalo's shootout victories this season. The 10 rounds made it the longest shootout victory in franchise history, and a much-needed one for a team that was 1-6 this season in games that made it past overtime.

"As a goalie, I've said it before, you can only control what you can control and my job is to stop the puck no matter what's happening in front of you," Nilsson said. "I was just trying to take it one shooter at a time and yeah, I'm happy we end up with the last goal."

Ryan O'Reilly, who scored Buffalo's only goal in regulation, beat Ducks goalie Jonathan Bernier to knot the shootout at one goal apiece on the Sabres' second attempt. Bylsma called it the most important moment of the shootout. 

"Obviously I've struggled in that in the last two years. I've been terrible with the shootouts" O'Reilly said. "I just wanted to come in with speed. Come in with speed, make a quick little shoulder fake and try to get it up. It's about time we score in a shootout. It's been a long time."

After that, both goalies were perfect through the next five rounds until Brandon Montour finally beat Nilsson on the ninth attempt for Anaheim, setting the stage for Ristolainen's first shootout attempt in his NHL career.

What happened next seemed to come as a surprise to everyone on the Buffalo bench. Ristolainen approached with speed until he came in close, luring Bernier out to the right, and then reached out wide with his left hand on the stick to simply slip the puck in behind the Ducks goaltender. 

Video: BUF@ANA: Ristolainen shines in SO with gorgeous move

O'Reilly said he was sure Ristolainen was going to shoot. Girgensons said he knew Ristolainen could make that move, but not in a game. Even Bylsma said Ristolainen had surprised everyone. 

Everyone, that is, except for Nilsson.

"I actually knew he was going to do that," the Sabres goalie said, laughing. "I wanted to see him out there. He's done that move a couple of times to me in practice and scored so I had a feeling he was going to do it and I'm happy for him that it paid off."

While Nilsson made the next save against Nick Ritchie, Girgensons already knew he'd be coming up next and had decided what he was going to do. He too dragged Bernier to one side of the net, and then lifted the puck in over his pad.

Video: BUF@ANA: Girgensons nets SO winner in 10th round

The Sabres had gone winless in two games prior during their California road trip, including a 2-0 loss in Los Angeles on Thursday night. They had been unhappy with their start in that game against the Kings, but Bylsma shuffled the lines and - while the coach said he still would've liked to see more scoring chances for his side - their effort was certainly improved to begin the game.

The most notable line change came at the top, where Ryan O'Reilly was moved to the wing on a line with Jack Eichel and Tyler Ennis. Duties changed with the situations; O'Reilly and Eichel rotated faceoffs depending on the spot on the ice, and the two were split up late in each period. But aside from some defensive unfamiliarity at wing on O'Reilly's part, the line felt comfortable. 

"It was good, getting to play with Eichs is special, his speed, what he creates," O'Reilly said. "For myself, it's open up the ice, get the puck to him. If you do that and help him get speed he's going to beat a lot of guys. I thought we had some good shifts."

"Trying to jump start a line with two of our best players on a line together," Bylsma explained.

For all the scoring chances O'Reilly and Eichel had in the first period, it was a good bounce that led to O'Reilly tying the game at 1-1 with 4:25 remaining in the second. Jake McCabe took a shot from the point and the puck deflected wide off of Bernier's glove, then off of O'Reilly's skate and into the net. 

Video: BUF@ANA: O'Reilly nets lucky goal off deflection

It was a silver lining in a second period that saw the Sabres get outshot 17-7, during which Nilsson kept the team in the game. The goalie was a rock in his first start since being pulled against Columbus last Saturday, ending his night with 39 saves. The lone goal he allowed was to Rickard Rakell in the first period.

"I was just trying to go into this game and be focused and take it puck-by-puck and try to stop every puck that came against me," he said. "I felt good. I felt good from puck drop, since the game started and then I felt good throughout the whole game and I think the guys in front of me battled really hard."


Fedun exits with injury

Taylor Fedun left the game in the first period due to a foot injury and did not return.

Fedun had been recalled on Thursday morning to replace Justin Falk, who is day-to-day with an injury to his calf. 


Up next

The Sabres will head home for a practice on Sunday, but then it's right back to the road for a game in Detroit on Monday night. It will be the fourth and final matchup of the season between the two teams, as well as Buffalo's final game at historic Joe Louis Arena.

The game on Monday can be seen on NBCSN, or you can listen live to Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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