Good things come to those who shoot.
The Buffalo Sabres found themselves in a hole after the very first shot of the game but kept up their offensive pressure to eventually battle back.
On their 33rd shot of the game with 4:29 remaining in the third period, they finally broke through.
Evander Kane tied it up with his first goal of the season, putting home a shot from the left-wing corner and Matt Moulson potted the deciding goal in the shootout to lift Buffalo over the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 at First Niagara Center on Wednesday.
“There were a lot of pucks around his crease that we had chances to put away and we just didn’t get the bounces,” Kane said. “We knew if we got the shot totals up, one had to go in for sure. We felt like we weren’t going to be shut out so we made that happen and we were able to get the win.”
Buffalo ended up with 35 shots on goal to Toronto’s 24. Chad Johnson earned his second win of the season while Jonathan Bernier took the loss for the Maple Leafs.
“What a good win for us. We battled,” Tyler Ennis, who finished with a season-high 24:36 – which also led all Buffalo skaters Wednesday night – said. “We deserved that goal. We had a lot of chances. Bernier played well but we stuck in there and got a huge win.”
Toronto took the lead 1:28 into the game on a tip-in goal from PA Parenteau. A shot from Roman Polak at the point completely changed directions on Parenteau’s redirect, giving Johnson virtually no chance on the play.
Buffalo had some quality chances early on. Kane nearly missed a tip in down in the blue paint on a Jack Eichel shot attempt midway through the period and then with about 4:30 to go, Nicolas Deslauriers rang one off the crossbar after being set up on a great feed from Ennis. That’s just to name two.
“Those are the opportunities you want to have,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “Eventually they’re going to go in for us and eventually they did tonight.”
Eichel himself had another great chance with 1:20 left in the second, winning a faceoff in at center ice forward and then using a burst of speed to move into the Maple Leafs zone. He cut around Morgan Rielly but lifted a shot high and wide.
In fact, that play is…
MAYDAY’S MOMENT OF THE GAME
"Jack Eichel takes a draw late in the second period at center ice where most centermen draw the puck back to their defense and start from center with a transition. Eichel went against conventional thinking and won his draw forward.
He then manufactured an outstanding offensive drive by beating Morgan Rielly wide and making a sneaky move to the inside, almost converting by shooting high and wide. This young man is getting comfortable quickly in his first NHL season." – Brad May, Sabres Studio Analyst
FIRST LOOK AT 3-ON-3 OT
Even after Kane’s goal, the Sabres continued to generate offense, but couldn’t get the puck past Bernier. Kane had another prime chance during the 3-on-3 overtime period but couldn’t finish a 2-on-1 break with Ryan O’Reilly.
It was Buffalo’s first opportunity to play 3-on-3 this regular season and it could end up being something they focus on in an upcoming practice. Bylsma didn’t think the session was as wide open as they may have originally thought it was going to be.
“We need to get better at it. We remarked coming in, it was a lot more controlled and slower,” he said. “There were two times we got the odd-man rush with Ryan O’Reilly and Kane and they got an odd-man rush the other way, but it was fairly controlled.”
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
Late in the game, the Sabres turned to their goaltender to keep them in it. While only tested four times in the third period, he came up huge in overtime and in the shootout.
With 1:35 to go in overtime, he sprawled out and kicked the puck away as Nazem Kadri tried to score right in front of the net.
“It’s kind of a tough one to start the game with and he didn’t see a lot of shots in the first minus that one in. I thought he really settled in in the second and the third,” Bylsma said. “I don’t know how many quality scoring chances he had, but he had a few of them that he was really strong on – particularly in the overtime, the stop against Kadri was excellent. Again, he gave us a chance to win tonight and we kind of pull it out through the shootout.”
Bylsma commented that Johnson deserved a better fate in Tampa on Saturday, but despite making 20 saves that night, Johnson was saddled the loss in a 2-1 game. On Wednesday, Johnson was strong between the pipes for Buffalo through 65 minutes and stopped four of five Maple Leafs in the shootout.
He closed the door with a save on Brad Boyes in the bottom of the fifth round to seal the victory.
“For me, that’s kind of my style. I try to be as calm and composed as possible and make the saves that I can,” he said. “I just try to help the team get into a position to win and then when it comes to the shootout, you just try and do the best you can.”
HABS IN BUFFALO ON FRIDAY
The Sabres continue their three-game homestand on Friday when the Montreal Canadiens come to town. Pregame coverage on MSG-B and Bell TV begins at 6:30 p.m. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.