While the Buffalo Sabres' five skaters on the ice looked around for the puck, Carter Hutton screamed so loud he thought his voice cracked. Then, Hutton stared down Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher and made a remarkable save to help send the game into overtime.
Jeff Skinner's two goals in the final 5:32, including the game-winner 3:06 into overtime, gave the Sabres a 3-2 victory and extended their winning streak to eight. But the celebration in front of a sold-out crowd Friday at KeyBank Center wouldn't have been possible without Hutton.
The Sabres' goalie made 31 saves, including 12 in the third period, and none were bigger than his stop on Gallagher, who corralled a bouncing puck that struck a camera hole in Buffalo's zone. That allowed Gallagher to skate alone on net, where Hutton made the pad save and earned his seventh consecutive win.
"I think me and Gallagher were the only two in the rink that knew where the puck was," Hutton joked. "I was screaming there. I think my voice was cracking. I was yelling where the puck was. I think everybody was drifting out of the zone and didn’t know where it was."
The winning streak began back in Montreal on Nov. 8, a 6-5 overtime victory over the Canadiens. Backup Linus Ullmark allowed five goals on 32 shots before he was relieved by Hutton at the beginning of the third period. Hutton had to stop a breakaway only 14 seconds in and made four more saves for the win.
He's been remarkable since. His 11 wins rank second in the NHL behind the Toronto Maple Leafs' Frederik Anderson, while his .919 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, among goalies with at least 15 games played before Friday night.
Gallagher put a scare in the Sabres on that failed clearing attempt. After all, Skinner scored the tying goal 17:34 into the third period to reignite the crowd and rob the Canadiens of any remaining momentum from their two unanswered goals.
But Hutton made the stop with 1:16 left in regulation, and the Sabres nearly won it when Jake McCabe's shot from the left point was deflected by Sam Reinhart off the post. Though Hutton didn't have to stop another breakaway, he again controlled rebounds in front of the net and was able to clean up any mistakes made by his defensemen, who can be exposed by joining the rush.
"It’s not possible if Hutts doesn’t make a save on Gallagher, kind of a weird bounce," Eichel said. "He’s in there by himself. He was tremendous again for us tonight."
Though the Canadiens have now lost three straight, it's not for a lack of talent. Max Domi entered the game with an 11-game point streak and five Canadiens have at least 15 points this season. This wasn't the Sabres' best game defensively.
When Gallagher tied the score 18:12 into the second period, Marco Scandella skated forward in the neutral zone too soon, allowing Gallagher to skate by him. The Sabres' forwards also struggled to contest shots at times, but Hutton made big saves in key moments. Hutton's first goal occurred when Gallagher beat him with a wrist shot far side, while the second was a deflection from a slap shot.
Otherwise, Hutton followed a not-so-simple plan to keep the winning streak alive.
"I thought tonight was just one of those nights, just be solid," Hutton said. "I thought that was a timely save. It was a big one."
With Scandella back from a lower body injury, the Sabres sent defenseman Lawrence Pilut back to Rochester following the win. Pilut, 22, was tied for the AHL lead with 22 points in 15 games at the time of his promotion Wednesday, but he did not appear in a game during his three days in Buffalo.
Scandella skated alongside Nathan Beaulieu against the Canadiens, while Pilut and Casey Nelson were healthy scratches.
The Sabres announced a partnership with Child and Family Services of Buffalo for the Sabres Holiday Angels program, which allows fans to support families in need during the holiday season by sponsoring a family or individual gift donations.
Gift donations are due to the charity by Monday, Dec. 17. They can be dropped off at Child and Family Services Family Support Center from Dec. 10-14 or KeyBank Center's Alumni Plaza on Dec. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those interested in adopting a family are encouraged to visit sabres.com/holidayangels.