The Sabres' first game under coach Ralph Krueger came as advertised.
Buffalo stuck to the aggressive, connected game plan their new coach instilled throughout the preseason and earned a 3-1 win in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday night.
Conor Sheary scored twice for the Sabres, giving him four goals and two assists in four games against his former team. Rasmus Dahlin also scored, while Casey Mittelstadt tallied a pair of helpers.
Evgeni Malkin scored the only goal for the Penguins against Carter Hutton, who made 28 saves.
Sheary opened the scoring at 5:23 of the first period, combining with Casey Mittelstadt to force a turnover on the forecheck and burying a shot from in tight. The goal underscored a strong start for the Sabres, who had already pressured the Penguins to the tune of a 10-2 edge in shots at that point.
Malkin tied the game with the Penguins on the power play at 5:50 of the second, but the Sabres reclaimed control and went on to outshoot the Penguins 13-5 in the period. Mittelstadt fought for a rebound near the net and fed Sheary for a power-play goal to reclaim the lead, and Dahlin connected with Sam Reinhart on the rush to pad the lead with 56 seconds left in the period.
The Sabres killed a trio of penalties to preserve the lead in the third, finishing the night 4-for-5 against the talented Penguins power play.
What it means
Sheary told Dan Dunleavy after the first period that it felt like the Sabres were playing on their toes rather than on their heels. It was exactly the sort of identity Krueger preached throughout training camp, one they showed glimpses of during a preseason win in Pittsburgh last Saturday.
It took a whole team effort. Sixteen different players tallied at least shot on goal, led by five-shot outings from Rasmus Ristolainen and Jeff Skinner. The Sabres finished with a 41-29 edge in shots and a 28-12 advantage in even-strength scoring chances, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Hutton, meanwhile, was a rock in net throughout the evening. The lone goal he allowed came with a screen on the power play from Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist.
Roll the highlight film
Reinhart made a habit of making highlight-reel passes during the preseason, and his first regular-season outing was no different. Skating on the rush alongside Dahlin, Reinhart delivered a perfect saucer pass off his backhand to set up the defenseman's first goal of the season.
Video: BUF@PIT: Dahlin flips puck over Murray's glove
The Sabres play their home opener against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. It will be Captains Night at KeyBank Center, with 14 former captains currently scheduled to attend. Find the full list - as well as details on the pregame Party in the Plaza - here.
Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen live on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7.