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Sabres erase trio of deficits in OT loss to Canucks

Johansson scores in final minute to earn road point

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

VANCOUVER - In the end, a game that went back and forth for three periods had one last twist. 

After erasing three deficits in regulation, the Buffalo Sabres nearly defeated the Vancouver Canucks on a shot from Jack Eichel that found the back of the net in overtime. Instead, Henri Jokiharju was called for interference and J.T. Miller scored for the Canucks on the ensuing power play. 

The result was a 6-5 victory for the Canucks and a road point for the Sabres on a night that could have seen them leave empty-handed. 

"It's a big point," said Kyle Okposo, who scored in his return from a 10-game absence. "… We could have wilted, but we didn't. We found a way to tie the game and get a point. Obviously, we would have liked to get a second one, that's disappointing. But I liked the way we fought back and that's a huge point."

Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Canucks

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he understood the penalty against Jokiharju, which came after the defenseman collided with Canucks forward Jake Virtanen as Eichel skated above them in the 3-on-3 extra period. Virtanen fell over Jokiharju's stick as he attempted to turn and switch onto Eichel. 

The whistle sounded as Eichel skated alone to toward the right faceoff circle and buried a shot behind goaltender Thatcher Demko.

"I can understand the call because of it being literally a breakaway out of it," Krueger said. "It was definitely not intentional. Joki wasn't even looking in that direction, so in a normal moment of the game that might not get called. But I think in a 3-on-3 overtime when it leads to a breakaway, you can see both sides of it and you just have to swallow it down."

The Sabres erased deficits of 2-0, 3-2, and 5-3 in regulation. Okposo, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Marcus Johansson all scored goals. Johansson's goal tied the score with 58.5 seconds remaining in the third period. 

The Canucks came out strong to begin the contest, outshooting the Sabres 9-5 in the first period and taking an early lead on the first of Josh Leivo's two goals of the night. They went up 2-0 early in the second on a goal from Antoine Roussel, who also scored twice. 

Though they had trouble solving the Canucks' pressure in the opening period, the Sabres responded quickly in the second. Within four minutes of Roussel's goal, Okposo and Reinhart both found the back of the net to tie the game at two goals apiece. 

Leivo's second made it 3-2 later in the period, but Olofsson scored with a one-time shot on the power play to knot the score again heading into the intermission.

Video: BUF@VAN: Olofsson finishes nice passing play for PPG

"I just think we played with a bit of a chip on our shoulder after they scored that second goal," Okposo said. "They were kind of taking it to us in the first period and then we just started taking it to them, roll [shifts] over and you get some momentum that way.

"It's a game of momentum and you're going to get swings in both ways. I just thought we did a really good job of pressing in the last 15 minutes or so of the second."

The next swing came at 4:51 of the third, when Tyler Myers scored shorthanded to restore the Canucks' lead. Roussel's second goal made it 5-3 with 9:20 remaining in regulation. 

Girgensons buried a high shot from the right faceoff circle to kick off the third and final comeback with 7:55 remaining. It was completed when Johansson buried a slap shot from the point in the final minute with Carter Hutton on the bench for an extra attacker. 

Video: BUF@VAN: Johansson ties it in final minute of 3rd

"We didn't quit or anything like that," Olofsson said. "I thought we just kept playing our game and we didn't panic, took it one goal at a time. I think it's great that we came back and I think we could've even got that last goal too."


Sabres Metrics

•   Eichel tallied a pair of assists to extend his point streak to 12 games. It's the longest point streak by a Sabres player since Tim Connolly's 16-game run from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010. 

•   Olofsson tallied an assist in addition to his goal, giving him 16 points in his last 15 games. 

"I feel like the last two, three weeks I've really felt like I've been taking a step in my game," he said. "I feel a lot more confident out there with the puck in every situation. I feel like I'm kind of getting better and better here."

•   Reinhart, a Vancouver native, now has goals in four straight games against the Canucks. 


Up next

The team's Western Canada road trip concludes in Edmonton on Sunday. Coverage on MSG begins at 7:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. The puck drops at 8. 

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