Cal O’Reilly had the two-goal night, but it was clear by the mile on his beaming brother’s face that Ryan O’Reilly enjoyed the success more. In the First Niagara Center stands was someone even happier.
“They always talk about their mom being the most happy and the most aware of the situation,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said, “so it was mentioned during the game, ‘Mom’s going to be happy with that one.’”
Bonnie O’Reilly certainly had every reason to be overjoyed during Buffalo’s 4-1 victory over Toronto. Ryan O’Reilly earned an assist on Cal’s first goal, making them the first brothers in Sabres history to record points on the same play.
“I’m sure my mom will be searching for pictures and be handing them out to all the family,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “We got a ton in family in town. He was born in Toronto, and a lot of our family’s from Toronto watching the game. It’s nice to have all them there and kind of share a great game that we played together.”
Cal O’Reilly, who has spent 11 years shuffling between the minors, the NHL and Russia, had a chance to make his first multigoal game in the big leagues even more special Thursday. Toronto pulled its goaltender late, and Ryan O’Reilly tried feeding his brother for an empty-net hat trick.
“I got the puck on the wall and tried to spin and find him, but they were all over him,” Ryan said. “It would have been nice to see him get that, but still, he played phenomenal.”
Playing in the same NHL organization for the first time has been a treat for the brothers. Though Cal has spent much of the season in Rochester, just being down the road from each other has been beneficial. They’ve played 11 games together with the Sabres.
“For them to give me a chance to play up here with him is pretty special for us,” Cal said. “We’ve got a lot of friends and family coming most nights, and they get to see both of us. That was the first goal together so it was fun for our family. Our parents were here, so I’m sure they were cheering pretty loud.”
Cal, who at 29 is four years older than his brother, has made a point of cherishing the 18 games he’s played with the Sabres. While skating in the Kontinental Hockey League in 2012 and 2013, he wasn’t sure he would ever make it back to the ice in North America.
“There was a time I didn’t know if I’d get an opportunity again,” he said. “I’m very fortunate the Sabres gave me a chance to play here and play some games and help contribute. It means a lot.
“You just never know. Your career flies by and before you know it you’re retiring. It’s pretty special to play some games here.”
- Column by Mike Harrington: Johnson wants to be a No. 1 but also loves being a Sabre
- Quick hits by John Vogl: Sabres 4, Maple Leafs 1
- Sabres notebook by Amy Moritz: Bad ankle dogs Lehner; ailing Kane done
- Photo gallery by Harry Scull Jr.: Sabres 4, Maple Leafs 1
The brothers will have the opportunity to create more memories. Ryan will start the first season of his seven-year contract extension in the fall, while Cal will finish his two- year deal. They’ll spend the summer preparing for it.
“I watch him train,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “I see everything he does, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded. Training with each other every summer, pushing each other, getting better together and watching him have success, he works so hard.
“It’s amazing. You never think growing up playing on the backyard rink against each other and beating each other up that at this level we’d get an opportunity to play together. Just to watch him have success tonight, it’s awesome.”