The nearly automatic wins at home against the Pacific Division suddenly stopped in the last four days for the Buffalo Sabres.
The Anaheim Ducks broke the Pacific’s 2ø-year drought in regulation here Thursday and the Vancouver Canucks made it two straight for the teams from out West with a 4-2 victory Sunday night before 18,876 in KeyBank Center. Buffalo was on a 13-0-3 run against the Pacific until Anaheim’s 5-2 victory.
Vancouver – which had dropped five of its previous six games – snapped a 2-2 tie with second-period goals by Alexandre Burrows and Michael Chaput and prevented the Sabres from sweeping their weekend back-to-back, which Buffalo opened with Saturday’s 3-1 win in Toronto.
The Sabres have yet to win two straight this month and are 3-5-1 in their last nine games overall.
Unlikely hero: Chaput, a 24-year-old center, had one goal in 43 games for Vancouver – and just three in 101 career games with the Canucks and Columbus. But he burned the Sabres on a goal at 16:37 of the first period, taking Daniel Sedin’s pass off the side of the net that caromed perfectly to the slot, to put Vancouver up 2-1. Chaput mishit Alex Edler’s cross-ice pass at 15:33 of the second but still got enough wood on it to get it by Robin Lehner and put the visitors into a 4-2 lead.
Measure of revenge: Burrows got the worst of a first-period scrum with Lehner and defenseman Justin Falk but got the last laugh on his goal, beating Falk to the puck off a Troy Stecher pass at 5:00 of the second period. In the first period, Burrows and Lehner exchanged slashes and shoves before Falk burst across the ice and sent Burrows flying, ultimately causing the Sabres to draw an extra penalty as all three players earned two minutes for roughing.
The quick jump: Tyler Ennis opened the scoring on a tap-in at 4:58 of the first period and immediately pointed at the player who created the goal. That was Evan Rodrigues, who notched his first NHL point of the season by holding the puck around two Canucks and then feeding it to Ennis.
Out of mid-air: The Canucks tied it on Bo Horvat’s power-play goal at 9:07 of the first, a mid-air deflection of Ben Hutton’s shot that was ruled legal even though there was oddly no long review to check the play. The power play came as a result of the Falk-Burrows dustup.
Sabres pull even: Buffalo got to the first intermission in a 2-2 tie as Kyle Okposo scored with 16 seconds left on a neat shot-pass from Rasmus Ristolainen to the front of the net. Ristolainen got the puck after a nifty back pass from Ryan O’Reilly.
Middle-period blues: The Sabres got outscored, 2-0, and outshot, 12-5, in the second period. That dropped their goal differential for the season to minus-22 in the middle frame (62-40). They’ve been outshot 669-560 for the season in that frame. Buffalo is plus-5 in the first period and minus-1 in the third.
Special teams: The Sabres had ascended to the top of the NHL’s power-play charts at 23.8 percent but went 0 for 3 in this one, and only got one chance in the first 54 minutes. Vancouver was 1 for 5 but that comes with an asterisk as it scored two of its goals less than five seconds after Buffalo penalties had expired.
Online quarrel: The Lehner-Burrows exchange even prompted an exchange from the teams’ official Twitter accounts. When the Sabres’ feed posted a highlight of Falk crushing Burrows with the tag “What you get when you mess with our goalie #takeaseat,” the Canucks responded with a clip of the Horvat goal and reply, “What we get when your goalie takes a penalty” and a red light emoji.
No Miller Time: Sabres all-time victory leader Ryan Miller, who took the loss Saturday in Boston, served as backup to Jacob Markstrom on Sunday. Miller did not play in either game against the Sabres this year. He’s 2-1 against them in his three seasons with Vancouver, posting a 2.34 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Up next: The Sabres will practice today and then kick off a four-game week heading into their bye with Tuesday’s game in Ottawa. The next home game is Thursday night against Colorado.