20240306 Postgame Web

TORONTO – Dylan Cozens woke up from his gameday nap to several missed calls and texts as he was made aware that the Buffalo Sabres had acquired one of his best friends, Bowen Byram, in exchange for his former linemate, Casey Mittelstadt.

The afternoon acquisition, which came just hours prior to the team’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, served as a reminder that the NHL trade deadline is approaching, but that business must carry on as usual.

The Sabres forged ahead to open a back-to-back set in Toronto but came up short in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs inside Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday.

“It's an interesting position to be in because [Mittelstadt’s] loved in that locker room,” coach Don Granato said following the game. “They know it’s a business. They know it’s that time of the year. … Obviously, you have to play a game. These guys, in this building and this rivalry, playing the Maple Leafs, is something they’re excited about. I think that pulled them right into it.”

Don Granato addresses the media.

Buffalo battled back from a slow start to outshoot Toronto 10-6 in the opening period, holding the Maple Leafs to zero shots on goal in the final 8:53 of the first.

The Maple Leafs struck first when William Nylander buried a wrist shot from the slot 2:29 mark of the second period. The Sabres answered back just over four minutes later, when Zach Benson boxed out David Kampf in the neutral zone to give Victor Olofsson space on the rush. Olofsson buried a shot top shelf from the left faceoff dot to tie the score at 1-1.

Despite being outshot 10-3 in the third, the Sabres held on to force overtime and earn a point before Auston Matthews scored the game-winning goal off a one-timer in front of the net with 40 seconds remaining in the extra period.

“Obviously, they have some very highly skilled players over there, some of the best in the world, so we had to manage the puck and try not to give them much because they'll capitalize off those opportunities,” Cozens said. “We just wanted to play a mature game.”

Dylan Cozens addresses the media.

Following the game, Cozens and Peyton Krebs reacted to the trade news, expressing their excitement to welcome their new teammate while wishing their former teammate the best.

“Obviously, anytime there's a trade where you lose a teammate, it's sad,” Cozens said. “Especially Mitts – he’s been here for a long time. Everyone loves him and he was such a great guy and he's such a great player. It sucks to see him go, for sure. But it's a part of it and we're getting a really good player in return.”

Cozens played minor hockey with Byram growing up before the duo went on to represent Team Canada together at several tournaments, including a gold-medal finish in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. They also won a silver medal the following year alongside Krebs and Jack Quinn.

The bond they formed through hockey turned into a lasting friendship. Cozens, Krebs, and Byram were together as recently as last month, when they vacationed together in Mexico during the Sabres' bye week. They are looking forward to being reunited in Nashville on Thursday, when the Sabres close out their back-to-back set.

“I'm really excited to add him to this team,” Cozens said. “He's going to fit in so well. And he's just such a great player with so much potential. He's not even close to his ceiling yet. He's gonna fit in so well with this group on and off the ice, and just very excited to see him get here.”

Krebs, who found out about the trade after his wife had received a text from Byram’s girlfriend, echoed Cozens’ excitement to have his old teammate meet the rest of the Sabres.

“Bo is an unbelievable guy – love him to death and I think he’s going to fit so well into our group and I’m so excited for him to get here,” Krebs said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

Peyton Krebs addresses the media.

Here's more from Wednesday's game.

1. Olofsson scored the Sabres’ lone goal while playing in his first game since Feb. 15. The forward skated 10:20, recording one shot and one hit in addition to his goal.

Granato said Olofsson was confident and ready to go once he found out he was going to be in the lineup against the Maple Leafs.

“I thought it was nice to get him in the lineup because he works hard,” Granato said. “He is an absolute great person and a worker. … That was a very big goal and very nice to see him persevere and cash in.”

2. During his postgame media availability, Granato shared that he plans to pair Byram with Rasmus Dahlin moving forward.

“I don’t think there’s any better partner to have and welcome to the organization than playing with Rasmus Dahlin," Granato said. "I expect him to slide in there. And Rasmus – he’s a leader and that’s what I expect. I expect that to be a smooth transition based on him knowing the locker room fairly well.”

3. Luukkonen made his 10th consecutive start and 20th start in Buffalo’s last 22 games. He stopped 25 of 27 shots, including 10 saves in the third period to send the game to overtime.

Luukkonen has posted a .928 save percentage and a 1.95 goals-against average in his last 20 starts.

4. The Sabres held a 16-5 edge in shot attempts when Eric Robinson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Kyle Okposo were on the ice together at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Up next

The Sabres conclude their back-to-back set in Nashville on Thursday.

Pregame coverage on MSG/MSG+ begins at 7:30 p.m. with puck drop scheduled for 8. Radio coverage can be found on WGR 550.