The fans booed.
They booed mightily and heartily as Thomas Vanek skated to center ice. No worries for left winger. He put on a familiar show for Buffalo Sabres fans. Oh, and won the game for the Detroit Red Wings.
Vanek's familiar move where he he circles the puck in a fake-whiff forcing the goaltender to commit worked to perfection. He beat Robin Lehner to score the deciding goal in Detroit's 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres in KeyBank Center Wednesday night.
"Once they booed me I figured I have to show them the move they’ve seen before," said Vanek, who played eight seasons with the Sabres. "I wanted to score for my team but once that happened I wanted to score even more."
And the boos were part of the fun for Vanek, who was drafted in the first round by Buffalo in 2005 and went on to tally 497 points, 254 goals, 106 power-play goals and 41 game-winning goals with the Sabres.
"It's part of the game," Vanek said of the boos. "I think it’s kind of fun. Again I have no bad memories here. I’ve said it many times that I’ve been here now. This place is close to my heart. I raised all my boys here. I loved it here. So no bad feelings at all."
But about that move on the shootout goal.
"You can call it whatever you want," Vanke said. "It’s a move I’ve done, maybe I was 13 or 14 when I came up with it. It’s one of my favorite ones and all I’m trying to do is for the goalie to drop his glove and get it over."
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) November 24, 2016
Vanek set up the Red Wings' regulation goal, skating in on a two-on-one break with Gustav Nyquist. He went to the left, spun around and fed Nyquist across the slot as Detroit took a 1-0 lead at 16:00 of the second period.
"Once we entered the zone I saw (Nyquist) enter with me so I was just trying to sell it that I’m not getting to the puck and last second hopefully Lehner would move over a little bit and he had a perfect shot there," Vanek said.
It was the ninth point for Vanek in nine games with the Red Wings this season. Wednesday was his second game back after missing 11 with a lower body injury and he admits to having a slow start to the game.
Vanek took a hooking penalty then was given an additional unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the first period.
"I thought the first 20 I was little sloppy and then I took, I didn’t think it was a penalty and then I took an extra two minutes which I can’t do," Vanek said. "I think I just got frustrated. After that I told myself I needed to be better and I think that penalty, even though it was bad, it kind of helped out my game. I think after that I was better."
Ryan O'Reilly returned to the Sabres lineup after missing five games with an oblique injury. He finished with five shots on goal but went only 33 percent (4 of 12) on faceoffs play8ing 22 minutes and 48 seconds.
The center, who returned to the top line with Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo, said he did learn some things from his time watching games.
“I think watching other teams and their top lines, seeing some of the chances they take, I think to myself it’s time to make those special plays, those plays that give us a goal, give us the lead and bring us back,” O’Reilly said Wednesday morning after the team’s morning skate. “I think sometimes, viewing my own game, sometimes I play too conservative; try to play perfect. I think I’ve got to be more creative. I’ve got to generate more; I’ve got to produce more.”
The injury news wasn’t as encouraging for other members of the Sabres roster.
Dan Bylsma said that defenseman Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) and forward Nicolas Deslauriers (knee) were still “a long ways away” from returning. Bogosian missed his 11th game Wednesday while it was the 13th game out of the lineup for Deslauriers.
Bylsma said that Bogosian and Deslauriers are still "a long ways away" from returning. "Zach, I think three weeks today in his four-to-six-week range. Same thing for Nic."
Also still sidelined is defenseman Dmitry Kulikov who is dealing with a recurring lower back injury.
"I'd like to say there was an update on him,” Bylsma said about Kulikov. “We've been on day-to-day but it's more like a week-to-week time frame right now."
The Sabres announced the team will partner with Catholic Charities of Buffalo for the Sabres Holiday Angels program which allows fans to adopt a family in need.
Fans can participate in three ways. They can register at sabres.com/holidayangels to adopt a family and receive details including name, age, gender, clothing size and interests to assist with shopping.
The second option is donate individual gifts which will be matched by Catholic Charities to the person or family in need. Gifts should be valued at no more than $30 and should be unwrapped. They can be dropped off at Catholic Charities Administrative Office (741 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday Nov. 28 to Wednesday Dec. 14), Catholic Charities Lackawanna Pantry (75 Caldwell Pl., Lackawanna, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday Dec. 2, Monday Dec. 5, Friday Dec. 9 and Monday Dec.), Catholic Charities Town Square Food Pantry (2710 N. Forest Rd., Getzville from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday Dec. 6 and Tuesday Dec. 13) or at the Sabres Alumni Plaza at KeyBank Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14.
The third option is to donate a girt card which may be mailed directly to Catholic Charities Parish Outreach & Advocacy, 741 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, N.Y. 14209.
For more information, contact Lauren Maguire by phone at 716-218-1400 x 2006 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.