Not only is it an exciting night when you start in net during your first professional hockey game, it’s even better when you earn your first professional hockey win. That’s exactly how Monday night went for Sabres goaltender Michael Houser.
The 28-year-old made his debut after spending the majority of the season on the taxi squad. His last game was a 24-save shutout for Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL on March 7, 2020 and he last played in the AHL during the 2017-18 season.
The night started off with Adam Pelech putting the Islanders (31-16-5) on the board first halfway through the first period. Houser started his night stopping 10 of 11 shots in the first period, but allowed the first shot early on in the second period. New York got on the board for the second time when Matt Martin deflected in a shot from teammate Roman Pulock but Buffalo challenged the play for goalie interference from Casey Cizikas— it was ruled in favor of Buffalo, no goal. The score remained at 1-0.
Eventually, Oliver Wahlstrom brought the Islander to 2-0 at 10:42 off a redirected shot from the point from Pelech. The Sabres finally cut their deficit at one with a power play goal from Tage Thompson, his 7th of the season, at 14:04.
In the third period, Rasmus Asplund tied the game at 2 off a loose puck poked one-handed in front of the net by Sam Reinhart at 11:25.
Buffalo (14-32-17) pulled ahead, taking the 3-2 lead when Reinhart tapped in a shot from Rasmus Ristolinen at 15:56.
With 51 seconds left in the game, the Sabres sealed their victory, 4-2, with an unassisted empty net goal from Reinhart. The goal marked his 25th of the season and his third point of the night.
Houser made 34 saves against the Islanders Monday night. Buffalo’s power play went 1-for-3 with a penalty kill of 1-for-1. Prior to the night’s victory, the Sabres had lost seven of their previous nine games.
Earlier on Monday, the Sabres signed goaltender Stefanos Lekkas (1-5-1 with the Amerks this season) to a professional tryout contract. He sat in as backup due to Buffalo’s goalie situation. The Sabres are dealing with injuries to Linus Ullmark, Carter Hutton, Dustin Tokaraki and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. This is not the first time Buffalo has used six goaltenders through a season, it was done in 1988-89 and again in 2013-14.
The Sabres and Islanders meet again Tuesday night for their final match of the season at 7 p.m. Interim Head Coach Don Granto said he plans on starting Houser again Tuesday night with Dustin Tokarski having a family matter.