BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The bladed edge between winning and losing cost the Sabres a critical point in the playoff race, providing yet another learning experience for the NHL’s youngest team.
Playing without top line center Tage Thompson, the Sabres rallied for tying goals twice in the first period, lost the lead in the third and clanged iron on two potential chances at the winning goal. Buffalo then battled through a shorthanded stretch of overtime and into the sixth round of the shootout with visiting Montreal, until Michael Pezzetta scored the winner on a shot that Sabres goalie Eric Comrie got a piece of.
“That’s a really tough pill to swallow,” said Comrie, who followed up his first shutout victory with the Sabres by making 38 saves, including several big stops late Monday night at KeyBank Center.
While unable to extend their win streak, the Sabres (35-31-7) did earn a point in the standings for the third consecutive game, moving within five points of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It was obviously a tight game and it could’ve went the other way just as easily as it went the way it did,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.
With Thompson missing his first game of the season to rest an upper-body injury he sustained in Friday’s home win against the Devils, the Sabres called up Lukas Rousek to make his NHL debut. On his first shift of the night, the 2019 sixth-round draft pick became Buffalo’s 27th player to score in his first NHL game, and Rousek also had an assist on defenseman Riley Stillman’s first goal in 10 games since being acquired by the Sabres in a trade.
Rousek became Buffalo’s first player to score and earn at least two points in his NHL debut since Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and assist on Nov. 10, 1999, against Boston.
JJ Peterka got his 10th goal of the season, Owen Power tallied his 25th assist and Jack Quinn was the lone Sabres player to score in the shootout. Along with Rousek’s goal, every line on the scoresheet had rookie representation.
“To live and go through the experience is essential for young guys, because they haven’t done that,” Granato said. “We had a lot of rookie players in the game tonight, and these are big moments for them.”
Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season — and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final — with any type of loss.
Brendan Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal in capping a 3-on-2 rush with a shot from the right circle 8:35 into the third period. Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.
The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the offseason. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.
During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”
The Sabres have three days off to help Thompson heal before hosting Patrick Kane and the New York Rangers on Friday night.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.