Alexandre Burrows knows how to cause a ruckus.
He’s not quite sure how this particular ruckus began, or perhaps he just was being a bit coy about it after the game. But the tussle between the Vancouver Canucks forward and Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner helped change the tone of Sunday’s matchup in KeyBank Center.
It was seven minutes into the game and the Sabres had a 1-0 lead and plenty of jump. The Canucks had been pressing in the Buffalo zone and as the puck found its way up the ice, Burrows found himself still in front of Lehner. There were stick whacks and shoves. Then Justin Falk burst onto the scene to take a swing at Burrows in defense of his goaltender.
It was exciting and energizing for all of KeyBank Center but the momentum swung to the Canucks who scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game. They went on to a 4-2 win Sunday night.
“I’m not too sure exactly what happened,” Burrows said of the incident with Lehner. “But I might have gave him a shot, or he gave me a shot first and it seemed like he got pretty angry. Then you never want to fight a goalie because you know bad things are going to happen so I kind of backed up and he gave me a good shot there and then I had someone on my back. It’s part of the game. It makes it fun. The fans like it. But we came out on top and that’s the most important thing tonight.”
Falk, the someone on Burrows’ back, didn’t see the incident that started it, but immediately knew it was his job to step in.
“I’d like to think anyone in that position would do the same thing,” Falk said. “We’ve grown up playing that way, that you protect your goalie and you protect your teammates. I didn’t see how it escalated. I was going for a line change and turned around, the crowd was making some noise and I saw them face to face. I figured I better step in.”
Burrows, Lehner and Falk all received two minutes for roughing, giving Vancouver the power play with Bo Horvat connecting for the goal. Lehner was pleased with the response from Falk even though it put the Sabres in a shorthanded situation.
“Of course. I was very happy about that,” Lehner said. “It’s a good penalty to take but again we should have killed that off.”
Instead of Lehner and Falk sparking the Sabres, the incident provided a spark for the Canucks.
“Maybe I think,” Burrows said when asked if the incident ignited his team. “It’s easy to say afterwards but when it happened I think it’s just a hockey play. He’s a competitor. I’m a competitor. He probably thought I got too close to him or I gave him a whack and he wasn’t too happy about it but for our group we responded well and that’s the most important thing. We battled together and then we scored a big goal on the power play. That might have been what really changed it up.”
Burrows netted what proved to be the game-winner, scoring five minutes into the second period. He burned Falk down the center of the ice, taking a pass from defenseman Troy Stecher who joined the rush.
It was the ninth goal of the season for Burrows, who picked up an assist on the Canucks’ fourth goal for a multi-point night.
The Sabres and Canucks played twice this season. Neither time did Ryan Miller face his former team.
Miller did not play in KeyBank Center Sunday night after making 30 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston on Saturday.
Backup Jacob Markstrom played on Sunday, stopping 26 shots for his second win against the Sabres this season. Markstrom made 27 saves in a 2-1 win over the Sabres in Vancouver on Oct. 20.
Meanwhile for the Canucks, it was their first win in Buffalo since they earned a 3-0 win on Oct. 17, 2013.
Kyle Okposo has his first six-game point streak since 2015. Okposo scored at 19:44 of the first period to give him six points over six games (three goals, three assists). It’s the first six-game streak for Okposo since Nov. 12-25 2015.
Rasmus Ristolainen played for an even 30 minutes Sunday night. That marked the sixth time in his career he has logged at least 30 minutes and the fourth time he’s done it during a game decided in regulation.