BUFFALO, NEW YORK – Sabres coach Ted Nolan had difficulty putting his emotions into words after going 16 years between wins behind the Buffalo bench.
“It was one of those games where you didn’t ever know that this type of day would ever happen again,” Nolan said on Friday night following a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in his return to Buffalo. “It was very emotional, so I’ll have a good cry after everybody leaves.”
Sabres captain Steve Ott had no trouble explaining the difference he saw in a team that played its most complete game of the season two days after coach Ron Rolston and general manager Darcy Regier were fired.
Ott didn’t disagree when asked whether the win and Buffalo’s performance reflected an indictment of the previous regime.
“Guys have been playing heavy for a long time. I think this was a full rejuvenation of guys’ careers,” Ott said. “It’s game on. It’s time to start fresh. It’s like you’re a rookie again.”
Ott led the way with a goal and assist in helping Buffalo (5-15-1) win its second consecutive game for the first time since closing last season with two victories. The Sabres also won their second straight at home after opening the season 0-8-1.
Marcus Foligno scored the go-ahead goal, Ryan Miller stopped 32 shots, and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff made two key plays to secure the win in the final minute.
With Miller looking the other way, Ehrhoff got down to block James van Riemsdyk’s shot directed at an open left side of the net. Seconds later, Ehrhoff got to a loose puck and fired it the length of the ice into the empty net.
“It’s a new start,” Ehrhoff said. “A lot of guys have been down, and confidence hasn’t been high. When there’s a big change like that, it’s a fresh start for everybody.”
What a difference two days made for a team that got off to its worst start ever.
Nolan was back after he previously spent two seasons coaching the Sabres before leaving over a contract dispute in 1997, after he was named NHL coach of the year. This shake-up also featured the return of former Sabres captain Pat LaFontaine, who made his debut in a newly created role as president of hockey operations.
Trevor Smith scored for the Maple Leafs (11-7-1) who, by comparison, continued a troubling trend. They dropped to 0-2-1 in their past three — their longest losing streak since going 0-3-2 from March 7-16. Toronto has gone 0-3-1 in its past four road games.
The Maple Leafs offense sputtered again. They have scored just four goals in regulation in five games.
Smith opened the scoring 6:25 in with a shot that deflected in off Ehrhoff’s knee.
After giving up the first goal for the 19th time this season, the Sabres scored three.
Capitals 4, Red Wings 3 (SO)
In Detroit, Nicklas Backstrom scored the only goal of the shootout, and Washington rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Red Wings.
Kings 2, Devils 0
In Newark, New Jersey, Dwight King and Anze Kopitar scored third-period goals, and Ben Scrivens made 26 saves to lift Los Angeles over the Devils.
Penguins 4, Predators 1
In Pittsburgh, James Neal and Brandon Sutter each had a goal and an assist, and the Penguins snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Nashville.
Senators 4, Bruins 2
In Ottawa, Jason Spezza, Jared Cowen and Bobby Ryan scored third-period goals, and the Senators earned a comeback victory against Boston.
Wild 3, Panthers 2
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Charlie Coyle put the Wild ahead with 8:22 remaining after Florida scored twice in the third period to tie it, and the hosts hung on to beat the Panthers for their sixth win in seven games.
Hurricanes 3, Ducks 2 (SO)
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Chris Terry scored the winner in the shootout to lift Carolina over Anaheim.
Canadiens 3, Blue Jackets 2 (SO)
In Columbus, David Desharnais scored the only goal in the shootout and Peter Budaj stopped all three shots he faced in the tiebreaker to lead Montreal past the Blue Jackets.
Jets 3, Flyers 2 (SO)
In Winnipeg, Dustin Byfuglien had two power-play goals and Bryan Little scored the winner in the shootout to give the Jets a victory against Philadelphia.
Sharks 3, Oilers 1
In Edmonton, Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist, and Joe Thornton helped set up two goals as San Jose beat the Oilers to stretch its winning streak to three games and extend the Oilers’ losing skid to six.