It took five months for the Buffalo Sabres to go from one shootout to two. They didn't even need 48 hours to get to the third.
The Sabres went to a breakaway challenge for the second straight game, suffering a 2-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday. It put a damper on a solid outing by Robin Lehner.
The goaltender stopped 33 of 34 shots during the game, then turned aside three of five in the shootout. Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury bested him by one.
"We played well against one of the better teams," Lehner said in KeyBank Center. "I think they played well, too."
Lehner backstopped the Sabres to a 4-3 victory in Ottawa on Thursday, finally winning a shootout with Buffalo. He'd lost his first seven chances.
Suddenly, he was staring down shooters again with an opportunity to make it two wins in a row. Vegas' David Perron beat him on the first shot, then Lehner made a stick save on Alex Tuch and a blocker stop on William Karlsson.
After Jonathan Marchessault hit the post, Vegas' Erik Haula scored glove side in the fifth round to win it.
"It's no secret I was struggling," Lehner said. "To be honest, I haven't practiced it much. I just tried to let it out of my head."
It worked as he stopped two of three shots in Ottawa for the win.
"Yeah, you get some confidence back," he said. "I've got to keep working on it, but a little bit at a time."
The game advanced to the shootout because Lehner robbed Tomas Tatar in overtime. Ryan Carpenter sent Tatar in alone on Lehner, but the goalie won the one-on-one battle.
"There's usually Grade A chances in overtime," said Lehner, whose team fell to 6-12 in overtime, including 1-2 in shootouts. "We've been playing a lot better in overtime as of late, but unfortunately we couldn't get the win."
The Sabres have used their political clout to earn a legislative victory.
The Sabres were among the lead advocates seeking to change New York gaming laws, and the drive worked. A measure sponsored by State Sen. Pat Gallivan and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger allows nonprofit organizations in New York State to accept credit cards for the purchase of raffle tickets. It was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December.
Fans noticed the change starting with Saturday's home game. The Sabres accepted credit and debit cards for the 50/50 raffle that benefits the team's foundation.
"The Charitable Gaming Act of 2017 will not only allow us to raise more dollars for Western New York charities, but it also addresses a customer service issue, as our growing number of fans who rely on electronic forms of payment will now be able to participate in our 50/50 raffle,” said Rich Jureller, president of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation. “We are truly grateful for the efforts of Pat and Robin in getting this initiative enacted. We are very optimistic that the new law will allow us better serve the charities we support."
The Sabres also anticipate expanding the raffle to include online sales. It would allow fans in Western New York to participate without being at the game, a provision that was approved as part of the new legislation. The foundation also plans to introduce online raffles of team experiences, memorabilia and equipment next season.
“People predominately pay with debit and credit cards, and this change in the law we’ve enacted will allow them to do that," Schimminger said. "Additionally, many people use their phones to purchase tickets and items or services of various kinds. Changing to a digital friendly format will facilitate a much smoother and easier way for the Sabres Foundation and other charitable organizations to raise funds for the important causes they support.”
Ryan O'Reilly continued to dominate in the faceoff circle. He went 27-6 against the Golden Knights, good for a staggering 82 percent success rate.
O'Reilly leads the NHL in faceoff percentage, winning 61.1 percent of his draws. Anaheim's Antoine Vermette is second at 60 percent. O'Reilly leads the league in faceoffs with 1,758 and faceoff wins with 1,075. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby entered his game Saturday night second in both categories with 1,590 and 832, respectively.
Victor Antipin's up-and-down year continued with his second straight game as a healthy scratch. He sat out 16 of 18 games in December and January. After returning to the lineup, he played in 18 of 20.
But after the Sabres lost, 5-1, to Calgary on Wednesday, coach Phil Housley sent the defenseman back to the sidelines.
"I just thought he took a step back," Housley said. "He was playing solid, and when we lose a game like that against Calgary, there's going to be changes. We're going to continue to change our lineup if we don't get the result we're looking for. That's why he's been sat out the last couple games."
Antipin, signed out of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, has no goals, nine assists and a minus-7 rating in 42 games.
"I'd just like to see what he was doing before," Housley said, "taking charge back there, being harder to play against and being a little bit more physical in the defensive zone."