Following a ten-game stretch where the Buffalo Sabres scored two or fewer goals in every contest, their offense came alive tonight in a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. They erupted for three goals in the second period inside of two minutes–all coming on the power play.
Kyle Okposo commenced the scoring deluge at 11:27 of the middle frame by snapping his seven-game goal drought, roofing one over Flames netminder Brian Elliott for his sixth tally this season.
“It was a really good play on the entry by Moulson, and then a nice pass down to Sam [Reinhart],” said Okposo about his goal. “He got it over to me; I had all day and fanned on it a bit, but I’ll take it. I was trying to go high glove. I didn’t have the velocity, but I’ll take it.”
Before the KeyBank Center public address announcer could even read the scoring line, he was interrupted by a roar from the home crowd as the Sabres struck just 36 seconds later. Evander Kane aimed a routine shot through traffic that ended up bouncing off Johan Larsson’s stick and into the net.
The power play trifecta was completed exactly one minute and 41 seconds following Buffalo’s first goal when Matt Moulson accepted a pass from Okposo and hurled it into the half-empty Calgary net. The goal gave Moulson his team-leading seventh on the season, and vaulted him into a tie with Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens for the league-lead on power play goals.
“The power play goals were huge for us; they gave the opportunity to get our best guys on the ice and score goals,” said head coach Dan Bylsma. “But also, they gave our team a big sigh of a relief a big, comfortable playing field.”
Marcus Foligno gave the team some added assurance with a highlight-reel move early in the third period. After dropping Elliott with a flurry of feints, Foligno tossed a backhand from an impossible angle that somehow managed to slip under the goaltender’s skate and find its way into the net, giving Foligno his fourth on the year.
Lost in the shuffle of all the goals was rookie defenseman Taylor Fedun, whose two assists on the night gave him four helpers in just three games played wearing blue and gold.
“We hoped he could show the poise and puck play on the power play, which he has,” said Bylsma about Fedun. “He’s shown he can defend and battle it out hard on the defensive side of the puck; that may be a surprise to me.”
While the offense stole the show, it wasn’t the only part of Buffalo’s game that rioted the fans. Their penalty kill came up huge during a 5-on-3 opportunity for the Flames during the tail end of the second period, where Larsson made an unusual appearance and blocked a shot to keep the puck out of their zone.
Robin Lehner was strong in net, surrendering just two goals on Calgary’s 31 shots. The win was Lehner’s fifth this season, and his first since Buffalo’s trip to Ottawa on November 5th.
Calgary’s pair of goals came from Mikael Backlund (3rd) in the first period, and Matthew Tkachuk (5th) early in the third. The Flames were on the back end of a back-to-back night, following a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings in Detroit on Sunday.
Buffalo will welcome those same Red Wings on Wednesday to the KeyBank Center for the teams’ first meeting on the season as they try to build off tonight’s scoring output and secure their third win in a row.
“I just think it’s huge getting four goals,” said Okposo following the game. “That’s a team [Calgary] coming off a back-to-back, and if we played well we thought we could get those two points. We executed our gameplan; hopefully we can take that confidence into Wednesday and roll with it. We got a good team coming in here, and we have to find a way to get the next two points at home.”