Buffalo Sabres forward John Scott was pressed into extra action Monday night as the Sabres dressed only 16 skaters due to a flu virus spreading throughout the team.
Scott began the game rotating as a seventh defenseman. But interim coach Ted Nolan moved him to forward when Drew Stafford was issued a major penalty and a game misconduct for elbowing midway through the second period.
In Buffalo’s 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at First Niagara Center, Scott recorded 8:50 of ice time, including 1:45 on the power play and two hits. Scott’s previous high in ice time this season was 7:31 against Toronto on Nov. 15, Nolan’s first game as interim coach. Scott relished the opportunity to see the ice in more varied situations with the short bench.
“It was one of those things where I think it was a challenge for us,” Scott said. “We knew we didn’t have a lot of guys, and we just had to go out there and play smart, and not get too deep in their zone and exert our energy when we didn’t have to. We had a game plan, we stuck to it, and we came out on top.”
Scott has extensive experience playing defense. At Michigan Tech University, Scott played defense for his entire four-year college career and he continued to play the position at the NHL level with the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.
Scott’s chance to work on the power play came about as a result of the short bench and it was a situation that the 6-foot-8, 259-pound forward has not had much experience with.
“It’s been a while, but not recently; it’s been a few years since I’ve been on the power play,” Scott said. “But it was nice, I didn’t expect it. [Interim coach] Ted [Nolan] just gave me the tap on the back, and I wasn’t going to look back, I jumped over the boards so fast.”
Nolan was very impressed with Scott’s play as he took on a larger role for this game.
“People think he’s just a big slugger who goes out there, but he’s highly intelligent, a very intelligent man,” Nolan said. “He knows the game; you see him on the power play, his front-net presence, he grabbed the puck and he knew what to do with it, he pulled it back. To go back and to go from defense up to forward, you have to have some intelligence to do that.”
With the Rochester Americans flying off to Switzerland to participate in the Spengler Cup exhibition tournament, the Buffalo Sabres recalled defenseman Mark Pysyk and forward Johan Larsson from their American Hockey League affiliate.
Pysyk was sent down for three games with Rochester and recorded one assist in those games. In his first game back with the Sabres, Pysyk was credited with the bizarre game-winning goal. The puck ended up in the pants of Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, who then backed himself all the way into the net, inadvertently putting the puck over the goal line.
It was his first goal of the season and the first game-winner of his career for Pysyk, who was as surprised by the goal as anyone.
“I don’t know, I got the puck, I just tried to put it on net for a rebound,” Pysyk said. “It came out, thought I could hit the fast one, but it just went up in the air and found [Smith’s] pants and went in the net. [My] first goal of the year; I’ll take it.”
The play was quickly known throughout social media as the "#ButtGoal."
The game marked the first for Larsson under Nolan as Larsson was assigned to Rochester shortly after Nolan arrived in Buffalo. In 13 games with the Amerks, Larsson tallied two goals, seven assists, and 26 penalty minutes to go with a plus-3 rating.
Larsson, playing in his first NHL game since Nov. 8., finished the contest agaisnt Phoenix with 18:51 of ice time, including over two minutes on both the power play and penalty kill. That ice time total was the highest of Larsson’s young NHL career.
Interim coach Ted Nolan liked what he saw from the 21-year-old Swede's game.
“I liked his game tonight,” Nolan said. “I thought he competed a little bit harder than the last time I saw him, so it was a great turnaround.”
Buffalo has now won three consecutive home games for the first time since they won three in a row from Feb. 19 to Feb. 24, 2012. The Sabres will have a chance to extend that home winning streak to four games when they host the Washington Capitals for a 5 p.m. contest on Sunday. Buffalo’s next game, however, is on the road. They travel to Toronto for a game against the Maple Leafs on Friday at 7:30 p.m.