BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A sellout crowd arrived early to applaud an all-time great, and the Sabres rewarded fans with a late charge in tribute to the legend.

Dylan Cozens scored on a breakaway 12 seconds into overtime to give the Sabres a 3-2 win against the Islanders that drew guest of honor Ryan Miller on the ice to celebrate. Thursday night’s comeback victory once again showed the youthful Sabres’ sense for the momentous occasion.

“The building was obviously rocking,” said the 21-year-old Cozens, whose 15th goal of the season was the first overtime winner of his career. “On a night like this when it’s full and they’re celebrating such an unbelievable player to this organization, Ryan Miller, you just want to win so bad. It really fuels us to win it for him on his special night and win it for all the fans who came.”

Buffalo has won 23 of 65 home games since the start of last season. But the NHL’s youngest team has raised its game on the nights when it’s mattered most for the franchise and the fanbase.

Such performances include last year’s lone sellout, when Sabres Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret had his banner raised to the rafters of KeyBank Center, the subsequent season finale celebrating “RJ’s Last Call,” sold-out home games this season that came after the deadly blizzard and Bills player Damar Hamlin’s collapse, the dramatic return of former captain Jack Eichel last March followed by the Heritage Classic outdoor game against the Maple Leafs in Hamilton, each season’s home opener, and the streak of five games this season when the Sabres wore their retro “goat head” uniforms and scored six goals in each victory.

“We’re a young team and you see every time we have a full crowd, we play very good, which means we’re a competitive team,” said Rasmus Dahlin, who set up Cozens’ winning goal with a long pass to record his second assist of the night and 50th point of the season. “It’s great to have all the fans here, which makes us better.”

Rookie goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen shined in the third period, making 10 of his 23 saves, including a 2-on-1 stop with seven seconds left among several game-saving crowd-pleasers. The win was Luukkonen’s 11th in 17 starts, and eighth in his past 10.

“He’s turning into this monster this year, it’s fun to watch,” Dahlin said. “He’s probably like Ryan one of the days in the future. We’re happy to have him.”

Victor Olofsson scored the tying goal, his 19th of the season, assisted by Casey Mittelstadt, with 10:38 remaining in regulation. Alex Tuch knocked in a rebound in the second period for his 22nd goal.

Buffalo trailed for much of the game despite notably greater puck possession and scoring opportunities. The Sabres had more shots on goal than the Islanders in each period and overtime, amounting to a 45-23 advantage, and an 89-49 disparity in shot attempts.

Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin, wearing the same jersey No. 30 as Ryan Miller, made 42 saves to nearly steal the victory.

“On Ryan Miller night to have a goaltending performance that spectacular both ways was a lot of fun,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.

Miller became the eighth Sabres player and 11th individual recognized with a banner raised at the downtown Buffalo arena during a pregame ceremony inducting the franchise’s all-time winningest goaltender into the Sabres Hall of Fame.

Having complimented the current Sabres during his acceptance speech beforehand, Miller walked onto the ice in street clothes after the win, fist bumping players and posing for a team photo.

“You just see how much he meant to the city and how good of a player he was,” Dahlin said. “I’m starstruck every time I see him.”

Sabres players watched the pregame ceremony from the bench wearing t-shirts displaying “Miller Time” and his now-retired No. 30.

“For him to embrace the team that way was special for our guys,” Granato said. “Even his mention in his acceptance before the game to mention our players, I was on the bench in front of our players and that felt good. It felt good to hear that as a coach and it felt good for those guys to be recognized by Ryan for the right reason. Our guys take a lot of pride in being a Buffalo Sabre. And to hear that they’re appreciated and feel that appreciation is energizing and that goes a long way. Very special for our team.”

The Sabres return to home ice Saturday against the Ducks on Youth Hockey Day.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.