BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Adam Ruzicka scored the go-ahead goal on a bad-angle shot 4:35 into the third period, and the Calgary Flames overwhelmed the sloppy Buffalo Sabres and rookie goalie Devon Levi in a 4-3 win on Thursday night.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Blake Coleman and Walker Duehr also scored in an outing the Flames peppered 37 shots on net, including MacKenzie Weegar nearly sneaking in a shot from just inside the center line.
Dan Vladar stopped 24 shots in his season debut in net. The Flames improved to 1-1-1 three games into a five-game Eastern trip, and responded with a goal each time the Sabres tied the score, with their final two set up by forcing turnovers.
“When they came back, we didn’t think about negative. I think we stuck with it,” Huberdeau said. “We saw a lot of character from the guys. It’s a big team win.”
Tage Thompson, JJ Peterka and Erik Johnson scored for the Sabres. Levi stopped 33 shots, but appeared off his game in his fourth consecutive start of the season.
Ruzicka scored on a shot from just above the goal line to beat Levi through the legs. Duehr scored Calgary’s second goal by slipping a shot through Levi’s legs from the right circle.
And the night almost got worse for the 21-year-old when he appeared to be caught sleeping on Weegar’s shot with 11:12 left in the third period. Levi got his right pad down to stop the puck just inside the post. Officials ruled the puck did not go in, and their call stood following a lengthy review.
Sabres coach Don Granato credited the Flames for putting his team and goalie on their heels by getting shots to the net, no matter the angle.
“They were intent on creating chaos and capitalizing on it better than we were. We wanted to pass our way into the net,” Granato said, while saying he needed time to review the goals before rating Levi’s performance.
What he didn’t need to review was his entire team’s performance by saying: “We created our own mess tonight. We were sloppy.”
Turnovers were an issue.
Ruzicka’s goal - scored 1:21 after Peterka tied it at 3 - was set up after Dillon Dube forced a turnover by Connor Clifton at the left boards.
“That was an example of a guy staying with it,” Flames coach Ryan Huska said of Dube. “He competed hard on the wall, ended up winning a puck, and then it was a nice quick release that I’m guessing the goalie probably wasn’t ready for.”
And the Flames went up 3-2 on Coleman’s goal 1:52 into the third period when Dennis Gilbert created a turnover at Calgary’s blue line by knocking Sabres rookie Zach Benson off the puck.
Buffalo is carrying three goalies, but placing its faith in Levi, who closed last season by going 5-2 with the Sabres after completing his third college season at Northeastern.
Levi also got little help in front of him in a sloppy outing for Buffalo that ended with the Sabres spending the final 67 seconds short-handed after being penalized for too many men.
A LONG TIME COMING
Johnson’s goal was his first in 69 regular-season games, dating to April 26, 2022, though the former Colorado player scored twice in the playoffs since.
“Any time I can chip one in, it’s a bonus,” said Johnson of scoring his 89th career goal in his 924th game. “That’s not really what I’m known for anymore, but fun to contribute. Obviously I’d trade that for a win.”
Flames: At Columbus on Friday night.
Sabres: Continue a four-game homestand, facing the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
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