ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Anders Nilsson may not have been the busiest man in Ontario on Thursday night, but he was perfect when the Sabres needed him. That ended up including 60 minutes of regulation play, a five-minute overtime period and a four-round shootout as Buffalo earned a 1-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Meridian Centre.
Nilsson has allowed one goal through preseason two games. He made 26 saves in two periods against Minnesota on Monday, his Sabres debut, and was impressive in two scrimmages during the first weekend of camp. Not bad for a guy acquired over the summer to serve as Buffalo's backup to Robin Lehner.
"He was rock solid," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think he wants to prove he can be in the net and be a capable goaltender when he gets the opportunity. He's had two opportunities to this point. He's been really good in both of them and looked real capable. It gives you a comfortable feeling."
Video: BUF@TOR: Nilsson stops Leipsic to keep game scoreless
He wasn't without help. The Sabres outshot the Maple Leafs 35-23 and generated several scoring chances but were unable to find the net until Matt Moulson scored the game-winner on their fourth shot of the shootout. Defensively, they blocked shots and limited Toronto's opportunities. Afterward, Nilsson called it a "team shutout."
"You always want to make a good impression but what it comes down to is helping your team win games," he said. "My job is to stop the puck and I'm trying to do that every time I come to the rink."
It was Moulson, his former teammate with the Islanders, who was able to seal the win for him on Thursday. He saw a bit of room on the blocker side during his shootout attempt and promptly fired the puck past Toronto goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, ensuring that Nilsson wouldn't need to stop a fifth shot in the shootout for his perfect night to remain intact.
Video: BUF@TOR: Moulson puts it away for Buffalo in SO
"He's a guy that works extremely hard on and off the ice and gets himself ready," Moulson said of his goalie. "He's playing excellent hockey during camp with us."
The game mirrored the Sabres' preseason opener against the Wild in that they were able to generate the bulk of the scoring chances but unable to make much of a dent on the score sheet. Buffalo outshot Minnesota 40-31 on Monday but lost 2-1.
Without a complete roster, however, Bylsma seems to be taking more good than bad from these performances. The Sabres are playing the way they want to play as a team: earning odd-man rushes, putting the puck to the net and placing themselves in the right spots to create scoring chances.
"I'd like to see Jack Eichel get one of those opportunities, I'd like to see Ryan O'Reilly get one of those opportunities," Bylsma said, referencing his top two centers, who have yet to play in a preseason game due to their involvement in the World Cup of Hockey (O'Reilly and Team Canada won the tournament Thursday night). "I like the fact that we're getting them."
Nylander versus Nylander
The game on Thursday was the first of what could be many meetings between William and Alexander Nylander, the two brothers who were selected eighth overall in the draft two years apart by Toronto and Buffalo, respectively.
"It was a fun experience," the Sabres' Nylander said. "It was fun seeing him out there playing from the bench and not from the stands for the first time. It was something special."
Alex said prior to the game that he and his brother had a competitive relationship, and you could see it on the ice in the first period. He came out looking more comfortable than he had his preseason debut against the Wild, first forcing a turnover to create a shot attempt from the high slot and then when he used his speed to beat the defense into the offensive zone and rung a shot off the post.
"I thought he played pretty well in the first, I thought he showed speed, made a couple nice plays," Bylsma said. "The second period was largely ruled by the power play and I think it took a little steam out of his sails, took a little confidence from him … That's just a young kid finding his way in the game."
Even still, Alex said himself that he felt more comfortable on Thursday than he had in his debut. Plus he gets bragging rights over his brother until the next time they play, rights he almost lost in the shootout when the two brothers shot back-to-back. Alex missed with the same forehand-backhand that served him so well at development camp in July, setting up William for a chance to give Toronto a lead.
Luckily for him, Nilsson was up to the challenge.
"He maybe should've deked," Alex said. "That's what he usually does."
Let's do it again
The Sabres are back at home to face the Maple Leafs again on Friday, with the puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. You can tune into the game on MSG or listen live on WGR 550, or purchase tickets and join us for the second of only two preseason games at KeyBank Center.