BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In putting forth another spirited performance wearing their “goat head” throwbacks, the Sabres paid homage on Youth Hockey Day. Arriving at the arena in various high school sweaters for Saturday’s sold-out game, the home team played with youthful vigor in a 6-3 victory against the Ducks.
Victor Olofsson (representing the Cheektowaga boys) and Peyton Krebs (Nichols School boys) each had two goals in Buffalo’s second win in row following a four-game home skid. Dylan Cozens (Williamsville East boys) and Jeff Skinner (Kenmore/Grand Island/Lockport girls) also scored, defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin (St. Mary’s Prep girls) had a career-high three assists, and rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Finnish club Hyvinkään Ahmat) made 34 saves for his 12th win in 18 starts.
Scoring six goals for the sixth time in seven games when wearing their retro jerseys, the Sabres’ effort earned a standing ovation from the second consecutive sellout crowd in three nights at KeyBank Center.
“Back-to-back games of 18,000-plus in the building, and I thought that was a factor,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “Nice to see that, and feel that energy.”
Coming off a spirited overtime win and banner-raising celebration for Ryan Miller, the Sabres appeared to be invigorated from a Friday off from practice before playing their ninth game in 15 days.
“We had way more energy,” Granato said. “Our team can execute much better when we are fresh.”
This was the 11th time this season Buffalo scored six or more goals, and the 16th game with at least five. But in the past five at home, the Sabres tallied nine goals.
“Hopefully learning from our disappointments at home,” Granato said, “not living up to our own personal standards at home in certain games, and instances. We spoke of that prior to the game.”
Buffalo has now earned 24 standings points in 25 home games. They have 25 points in 20 contests on the road ahead of a four-game, six-day trip starting Tuesday in Dallas.
Continuing the celebration from Thursday night, Miller and his son Bodhi dropped the puck during a ceremonial face-off between goalies Craig Anderson and John Gibson.
Cozens became Bodhi Miller’s new favorite player when he gifted his stick after scoring the OT winner against the Islanders, and he got Saturday’s surge started with a dazzling goal, his 16th of the season, in the opening minutes of the first period.
“When you compete and work and have the talent and skill that he has, you just keep getting better,” Granato said of the 21-year-old center.
Skinner notched his 19th goal on a power play late in the first to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead, before Trevor Zegras got the Ducks back above water with two goals and an assist in the second period.
Olofsson broke the tying scoring twice in a six-minute of the third, eclipsing his career-high with 21 goals this season and equaling Buffalo’s leading scorer Tage Thompson with his sixth multi-goal output. Extending his scoring streak to three games, Olofsson’s first goal came on a one-timer set up by a long pass from Lyubushkin, who tallied multiple points for the first time in 31 games of an injury-riddled first season with the Sabres.
Krebs’ goals in the second and third periods bookended a fight with Anaheim’s Ryan Strome that interrupted a 2-on-1 chance for the Ducks. Krebs has scored three times in three games since being scratched in consecutive contests, a lineup decision Granato said was designed to refocus the 21-year-old.
“It’s a blast,” Krebs said. “I think whether it’s this game or the other game, past games, I just try to keep a smile on my face and have a lot of fun. Obviously scoring and a fight makes it a lot more fun, but it’s good times.”