The Sabres and their fans got their first taste of three-on-three overtime. It was wild and filled with unreal scoring chances.
But it didn’t determine a winner Wednesday. The shootout was just as fun, and it did.
Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson scored in the shootout, lifting the Sabres to a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in First Niagara Center. The Sabres improved to 2-4 by picking up a well-deserved win.
The Sabres outshot Toronto, 34-21, during regulation but were held scoreless until Evander Kane scored with 4:29 to play. Buffalo put up 12 shots in each of the first two periods and 10 during the third while peppering goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Toronto had a 3-1 shot edge during overtime, but both teams missed several point-blank chances.
Buffalo improved to 16-1-1 against Toronto in the last 18 games played at home. The Sabres are on a 7-0-1 run.
Kane’s counts: Kane, who had a goal overturned by replay earlier in the season, got his first with Buffalo – and it was huge. A turnover by Toronto’s Tyler Bozak put the puck on Kane’s stick on the left faceoff dot, and he ripped a far-side shot past Bernier to tie the game at 1-1 with 4:29 to play. The goal came on Buffalo’s 33rd shot to finally end the goaltender’s dominance.
Opening act: The Leafs had given up the opening goal in their first five games, but they needed only 1:28 to break the streak. While getting pushed by Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson in the slot, Toronto forward PA Parenteau reached out to get his stick on Roman Polak’s point shot. The puck bounced off the ice and over the shoulder of goaltender Chad Johnson.
One zero: The Sabres became the first team not to beat Bernier during the first period. He stopped all 12 shots he faced and got help from the goal post.
Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers, who used to be a defenseman, showed he hasn’t lost his skills by thwarting a Toronto rush. The Sabres turned up ice, and Deslauriers ripped a pass from Tyler Ennis off the post with 4:30 left.
Waiver alert: Fans may find out at noon Thursday how committed the Sabres are to their backup goaltending situation. If Buffalo is not, it can pick up an experienced NHL netminder without giving up anything.
Calgary has waived Karri Ramo, who was the Flames’ opening-night goaltender. The 29-year-old was unable to stand out in the Flames’ three-man crease, going 0-3 with a .879 save percentage and 4.37 goals-against average.
Ramo went 15-9-3 last season with a .912 save percentage and 2.60 save percentage. He has a one-year contract that pays $3.8 million. The Sabres, who may be without injured No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner for two more months, have the cap space.
So far, Buffalo has been content to ride Johnson while using rookie Nathan Lieuwen as the backup.
Power-play jump-start: The Sabres gave up seven of the first eight shots during the middle period before going on the power play. The man-advantage unit provided a spark with scoring chances by Jamie McGinn, Evander Kane and Jack Eichel. Buffalo took seven straight shots and finished the second period with 12.
Eichel magic: The center showed his special talent on a center-ice faceoff late in the second period. He pushed the draw past Toronto’s Marc Arcobello and stepped around the center to retrieve it. Eichel then blew past defenseman Morgan Reilly for a clear shot on Bernier. It went wide.
Big collision: Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf tried to stand up Kane with a huge hit at the blue line midway through the third, but he left the collision with a bloody mouth. No penalty was called, though Phaneuf could have gone for interference while Kane could have gotten a high-sticking penalty.
Yelling at zebras: The Sabres’ bench, led by coach Dan Bylsma, screamed at the officials to give Buffalo a five-on-three early in the first period. With Polak in the box, a Toronto penalty killer blocked a shot with his stick. It sounded like the lumber broke, but the player didn’t drop it and kept playing, which is an infraction. The stick eventually did snap, but the officials skated to the Buffalo bench and told Bylsma to quiet down.
Penalty-kill audition: The Sabres, who entered with the 28th-ranked penalty kill, have been auditioning everyone during practice this week. Eichel and Kane got the call during the second period. They started a rush out of their own zone that nearly resulted in a short-handed scoring chance.
Counting the house: In a rarity for the Leafs-Sabres series, the game was not a sellout. The upper corners of the 300 Level were barren as Buffalo announced crowd of 17,762.
Up next: The Sabres will play their first set of back-to-back games this weekend, though there is no travel involved. The first-place Montreal Canadiens, who have started 7-0-0, will visit Buffalo on Friday. The New Jersey Devils will come to town Saturday night.