Sabres Notebook: Nilsson gets two sweet points against his former team - The Buffalo News
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Sabres Notebook: Nilsson gets two sweet points against his former team

There was a little bit of extra motivation. Of course there was. Anders Nilsson spent last season with the Edmonton Oilers and a little bit of him wanted to beat his former team.

The bigger part of him wanted the two points.

Nilsson survived a peppering of 32 shots over the final 40 minutes of the game and made several key saves to backstop the Buffalo Sabres to a dramatic 4-3 overtime win in KeyBank Center Tuesday night.

"I mean I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little special playing against the team I played with last year," said Nilsson, who went 10-12-2 with a .901 save percentage and a 3.14 goals against average with the Oilers. "I know a lot of the guys on the team so of course it’s special but it comes down to two points and they’re not more important if you get them against an old team or some other team.

"It’s fun. It’s fun to get two points. It wasn’t the prettiest one but it’s two points and that’s what we need."

The Sabres had built a 2-0 lead in the first period and limited the Oilers to just five shots on goal. But Edmonton came out with speed and purpose, tying the game in the second period.

"I think the first period we played great. We definitely were the better team out there," Nilsson said. "Then I think we stepped off the gas a little bit and we allowed them to come into the game. They have a very skilled team and a very skilled group of guys and when they get zone time and when they get skating, it’s a dangerous team."

Dangerous even when they're down a man.

The biggest save of the night came with 15:10 left in the third period when Connor McDavid picked up the puck for a breakaway on Nilsson. The goaltender waited and made the save with his stick.

"I was trying to stay patient," Nilsson said of the McDavid breakaway. "I know he comes with a lot of a speed and is a very good skater. Honestly I thought he was going to deke it because he comes in with so much speed but he shot it five-hole and I was able to get my stick on it."

And while the Oilers went on to take a 3-2 lead on a power play goal about six minutes later, that particular save on McDavid may have been what gave the Sabres an opportunity to come back for the win.

"He plays the puck well," Sabres defenseman Cody Franson said. "We try to be loud and vocal for him to make it easy on him and he executes really well. And he’s made the big timely save for us. I mean he stops a breakaway with McDavid and that’s a big save for us. That one goes in, I think we have a tough time coming back."

Nilsson let in three goals, two of them on the power play, which came off the Oilers ability to crash and create chaos around the net.

"There were a couple of flurries," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "They had quite a few shots and chances and they scored their goals on pucks in and around the net. The first power play goal, the high-tip on the third goal they scored. They were not just direct plays. They were pucks in and around the feet and they had bodies crashing there and I thought he came up big for us."

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Nilsson finished with 34 saves on 37 shots. He and Robin Lehner entered Tuesday's game with the fifth-best combined save percentage in the NHL. The duo have saved 92.5 percent of the shots they've faced, letting in 60 goals while facing 803 shots.

The last time the Sabres finished a season with a combined save percentage above .920 was the 2009-10 season when Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth combined for a .924 save percentage.

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Nilsson nearly had to make a save at the buzzer at the end of regulation. Again shorthanded, McDavid charged down the ice in the closing seconds coming to Nilsson's doorstep. But the buzzer went before he could make a move or get off a shot.

"I looked up at about two-and-a-half seconds on the clock and he was at the blueline," Bylsma said. "I thought well, it's not near enough time for him to get there but I was wrong."

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Ryan O'Reilly has found a scoring touch. The center recorded two assists, setting up Evander Kane's game-tying goal and Rasmus Ristolainen's overtime game-winner, to give him six points (two goals, four assists) in his last five games.

O'Reilly now has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in his last 20 games against Edmonton, including points in the last five games against the Oilers.

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With the win on Tuesday and a 6-2 win in Edmonton on Oct. 16, the Sabres have two wins over the Oilers in a season for the first time since 1985-86. That season the Sabres went 2-1-0 against the Oilers.

The teams played only once for seven straight seasons, from 2005-06 to 2011-12 with no meetings in the 2007-08 season.

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After scoring his first professional goal, Sabres draft pick Vaclav Karabacek was named the Sher-Wood Hockey ECHL Player of the Week for his performance with the Elmira Jackals.

Karabacek scored three goals, including his first professional goal, and added three assists with a plus-5 rating in three games last week.

The 20-year-old Karabacek had a goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Kalamazoo Wings on Wednesday, recorded four points (two goals, two assists) in a 7-4 win over the Wings on Friday and had an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to Brampton on Sunday.

He was a second-round selection of the Sabres in 2014 and played last season with Gatineau, Baie-Comeau and Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

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