HELSINKI, FINLAND (AP) - Thomas Vanek scored two power-play goals, leading the Buffalo Sabres past the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 in their NHL opener Friday.
Vanek, the top goal-scorer for Buffalo the last five seasons, set the tone with his first goal at 4:02 in the first period. Ville Leino of Finland, playing in his former home stadium, then made it 2-0 on his debut for the Sabres.
Nate Guenin replied for Anaheim in the second period, but Vanek helped restore the Sabres' two-goal lead by setting up Jason Pominville. ...MORE.
With Buffalo applying pressure in the Ducks’ zone, Anaheim’s clearing attempt is held in at the blueline by Christian Ehrhoff. He fires a wrist shot at the net that bounces off Tyler Ennis before being picked up by Brad Boyes behind the net. Boyes finds Andrej Sekera sneaking in down low at the faceoff circle, and he lasers a pass to Ville Leino in the slot. Leino takes the pass in his skate, and quickly kicks it into a shooting position just as he’s tripped by Anaheim’s Andrew Gordon. While falling to the ice, Leino uncorks a snap shot over Jonas Hiller’s left shoulder for what turned out to be the game winning goal.
"I thought Ville played very well tonight," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "He was sound in his own end and scored a big goal for us. He made a heck of a play kicking the puck off his skate and scoring a big goal. But even importantly was that his play in his own end was really solid."
Thomas Vanek picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2010-11 regular season, finishing the night with three points (2+1) and a game-high nine shots. Vanek ended last season with consecutive three-point games, giving him nine points (6+3) in his last three regular season contests. Vanek played alongside Luke Adam and Jason Pominville for the first time in a regular season game, after being formed midway through training camp when Derek Roy was injured. Vanek was happy with their chemistry, but knows they have a long way to go.
"It's only game one, but I thought Luke looked good out there. I think we still have some things to work on though, because the Getzlaf line had us rotating a few times tonight."
- The line of Vanek-Pominville-Adam accounted for eight of Buffalo’s 12 points.
- Ryan Miller
made 29 saves to earn the win in the 400th game of his NHL career. He joins Domink Hasek (491) as the second goaltender in Sabres history to play in 400 games.
- Buffalo was held without a shot in the third period. The last time this happened was March 29, 2003.
I think that was a real momentum killer for them. - Lindy Ruff, on Buffalo's 5-on-3 penalty kill early in the 3rd period.
- Jordan Leopold
led the Sabres in TOI with 24:45, including 5:04 while shorthanded.
- Robyn Regehr
had a game-high five hits and six blocked shots.
- Paul Gaustad’s 10 face-off wins led Buffalo, and tied him with Anaheim’s Saku Koivu and Ryan Getzlaf.
- Tonight’s game opened the first of Buffalo’s league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games this season. Buffalo also topped the NHL last season with 22.
- The Sabres are now 23-14-4 in season openers; 8-8 when they start on the road
- Lindy Ruff improved his record to 8-5-1 in season openers as Buffalo’s head coach.
- The Ducks dropped to 4-14 all-time in season openers.
The Sabres will face Los Angeles on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at the o2 World Arena in Berlin, Germany. They leave Berlin right after the game, with an expected early Sunday morning arrival in Buffalo. After five days off, the Sabres play their home opener at the First Niagara Center one week from tonight against Carolina. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET.