Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen bails out the Buffalo Sabres in win over the Penguins

The Buffalo Sabres snagged just their second winning streak of the season thanks to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s stellar play.

Jan 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1)
Jan 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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If you thought Devon Levi put on an epic performance in his homecoming game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen may have one-upped him. The Buffalo Sabres much-maligned goaltender saved an incredible 41 out of 42 shots on goal, good for a save percentage of 0.976. 

Like Levi, Luukkonen saved all of his shot attempts at even strength, 38, and he only allowed a power play goal. But you have to cut Luukkonen some slack as the Sabres committed a pair of penalties and were facing a 5-on-3, which predictably didn’t end well. 

And what about those breakaways that Luukkonen stopped? Last season, when an opponent set off on a breakaway, there was maybe a 50-50 chance Luukkonen would make the save, and it was something he struggled with all year. Tonight, he went three for three on clean breakaways in the game’s first two stanzas. 

Buffalo Sabres score a win thanks to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

As for the Sabres, it wasn’t their cleanest game, as they allowed more than a fair share of scoring chances against this experienced Penguins team, and the fact that they allowed five power plays also didn’t help. They were ultra-pedestrian in the first frame following Alex Tuch’s early goal, and the Penguins outshot them 17 to eight in the opening 20 minutes. 

Near the game’s midway point, Buffalo logged just 14 shots on goal, and there was an inkling that they weren’t holding what was then a one-goal lead much longer. But once again, Luukkonen was busy enjoying one of the best games of his career, and if he and Devon Levi keep up this play, the 2023-24 season is far from a done deal. 

It’s been quite the evolution for Luukkonen, whose play would have likely faltered in January 2023 had the Buffalo Sabres been struggling offensively. But here in 2024, the 24-year-old is looking to write a new script, and so far, he’s one for one.

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(Statistics provided by NHL.com)