Don’t look now, folks, but the Buffalo Sabres have now won two consecutive games for the first time this NHL season – also marking the team’s first two wins on home ice. In the first game under interim head coach Ted Nolan, the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3-1 on Friday night.
Tonight’s win marked Ted Nolan’s first win as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres since May 9, 1997. Not only was it a win – and on home ice – but tonight’s game also had several other positive markers.
For starters, the Sabres actually outshot the Leafs in the first period, 10-5, marking just the fourth time this season that the Sabres outshot their opponent in the first 20 minutes. Overall, the Leafs outshot the Sabres, 33-27, but it was a close margin and Buffalo didn’t allow the Leafs to get over 40 shots as they’ve done in several games this season.
The night started off with a scoreless first period, during which the Sabres were unable to take advantage of two power play opportunities.
The Leafs got on the board first, as Trevor Smith opened the scoring 6:25 into the second period. Smith, who captains the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, was called up just today as John-Michael Liles was sent down to the AHL club.
The Toronto lead lasted just over three minutes, however, as Steve Ott scored a power play goal to tie the game at one, assisted by a pair of defensemen (Tyler Myers, Mark Pysyk). Less than six minutes later, Marcus Foligno would give the Buffalo Sabres a 2-1 lead on a backhand shot assisted by Ott and Drew Stafford. Stafford was also originally credited with an assist on Ott’s goal, until that point was credited to Pysyk instead.
Taking a lead into the third period, the Sabres were able to hold on, even through a pair of penalties in the third period. Finally, with just 28 seconds remaining in regulation and just moments after making the save of the game, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff shot the puck down the ice from near the Buffalo net – straight into the empty Toronto net, to give the Sabres a 3-1 lead and eventual victory on his first goal of the season.
Steve Ott had a goal, an assist, three shots and was a plus-2 on the night. Defenseman Mark Pysyk had two assists, three shots, one hit and two blocks. Christian Ehrhoff led the team with over 24 minutes of ice time, while Zemgus Girgensons had 40 percent accuracy in the faceoff circle in his first game as a center for the Sabres.
Defenseman Cody Franson led the Leafs in ice time, with over 23 minutes played. Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk led the team with five shots apiece.
Overall, the Sabres went 1/3 on the power play and kept the Leafs off the board in all three of their power play opportunities. Ryan Miller stopped 32 of 33 shots faced, while Jonathan Bernier stopped 24 of 26 shots he faced during the night.
There’s no rest for the weary on either team, however, as both teams travel to Toronto for another meeting tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre.