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Lehner makes spectacular save in OT win over Habs

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

MONTREAL - It's not often you see a crowd cheer for a play made by the road team. It takes a special moment, like Lebron scoring 50 at Madison Square Garden, or a no-hitter in the ninth inning, or, just maybe, the save Robin Lehner made in overtime at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

With the Buffalo Sabres struggling to gain possession in the extra period, Montreal's Alexander Radulov cut to the center of the ice. Lehner had seen this happen twice on this night. Both times he committed to Radulov, and both times Radulov passed back to an oncoming forward.

Radulov tried the same move a third time, now dropping a pass back to Alex Galchenyuk, and Lehner was as ready as he could be. He dove to his left and snagged Galchenyuk's shot with his glove, proceeding to hold his glove into the air while he laid on the ice like an outfielder who'd just made a diving catch.

Video: BUF@MTL: Lehner dives to make game-saving glove stop

Whether they were cheering for what they perceived to be a goal or out of respect to Lehner himself, or perhaps a combination of both, there was no question that the save earned a buzz from the Montreal crowd.

"I think the fans half-cheered for a goal," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was almost like it was in the back of the net and almost turned into a gasp of, 'He actually got his glove on it and made the save.' I thought the fans actually gave him a little cheer for how awesome the glove save was."
    
It wasn't long before Lehner's save that his counterpart, Carey Price, made an equally electrifying glove save on Rasmus Ristolainen to preserve a 2-2 tie with 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation, prompting what Bylsma said may have been the loudest reaction he's heard on a play by a goaltender.

Price's save could have been the turning point in the game. Instead, seconds after Lehner made his incredible play, Zach Bogosian blew a slap shot by Price to clinch a 3-2 victory for the Sabres, their second come-from-behind win in as many nights.

Brian Gionta and Cody Franson also scored goals for the Sabres.

It had been a long week for Lehner, who hadn't played since being pulled after allowing three goals in the second period in Toronto on Tuesday. He answered not only with maybe his best save in the NHL, but with one of his best performances of the year. Lehner made 36 saves and kept the Sabres in the game when things weren't clicking offensively.

"Robin has played a lot of good hockey for us," Bylsma said. "He's played, I think, really well in net for us and hasn't gotten the result, hasn't gotten the win. I think that's something that he's been dealing with, weighing on him. He wants to get the win and I think tonight, to me that save really was a turning point for Robin."

"I really wanted to have a bounce-back game today," Lehner said. "We go in this building, we go into overtime and we win it. That's a great feeling."

Goals from the defense have been few and far between for the Sabres this season, but they got two big ones from Bogosian and Franson. It was Franson's goal that tied the game with 8:07 remaining in the third period, a shot from the point off a faceoff win by Ryan O'Reilly that saw its way through traffic.

Video: BUF@MTL: Franson scores through traffic to tie game

"[O'Reilly has] been great in the circle all year and he's great at drawing up what he wants done with the puck when we do win it," Franson explained. "I mean I really had option A and option B. Option A was going to [Bogosian} for a one timer. I saw a lane and once I got it I just tried to hit it … Obviously I don't think Cary saw the puck, he probably makes the save if he does."

Bylsma said he thought Franson played his best game of the season, which was evident in his play breaking out the puck and moving through the neutral zone. He was also relied upon to skate 21:28 of ice time, one of three defensemen along with Bogosian and Ristolainen to eclipse that 20-minute mark in the wake of Jake McCabe's injury on Friday.

"I felt pretty comfortable out there," Franson said. "I think it's been a pretty good run actually so far. I'm pretty happy with where my games at. Obviously there's always room for improvement but I feel confident out there and comfortable playing against anybody. When you can get that level of confidence it usually means you're doing the right things."

Bogosian was still without a goal in 26 games this season when he caught the puck in the right circle in overtime, and he picked a good time to get the monkey off his back. 

Video: BUF@MTL: Bogosian hammers OT winner off iron and in

"It feels nice," he said. "I feel like I've been on it the past few games and it just hasn't been going in. Ryan slid it over and I got the shot off as quickly as possible. Luckily, that one went in."

As happy as he was for himself, Bogosian seemed to be even happier for his goaltender. A week in which Lehner was pulled for the first time this season and has since had to answer questions about everything from his reaction on the bench to a subtle interaction with a fan in the crowd ended with him, quite literally, stealing a win.

"It's great," Bogosian said. "I think he's been portrayed as a totally different person than what he actually is like. I've dealt with guys like that throughout my career with different teams. Nothing can break what we have in here. Our team's extremely close, Robin's a huge part of that and we're happy he's on our team. 

"Saves like tonight, games like tonight, it makes you happy for him because he has put in a lot of work over the past year to make himself a better goaltender." 

 

Up next

The Sabres have two road games remaining prior to the All-Star break, beginning when they head to Nashville to face the Predators on Tuesday night. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550.

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