HAMILTON, Ont. (WKBW) — For the first time since 2008, the Sabres "hosted" an outdoor NHL game. But it was across an international border. Buffalo took on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2022 Heritage Classic at the home of the CFL's Hamilton TigerCats and came away with a 5-2 victory.
After a quiet first period, both teams found the back of the net plenty in the second. Vinnie Hinostroza scored two goals for the Sabres, including a tally that gave them a 3-2 lead. Two goals from Peyton Krebs and an empty net goal from Tage Thompson sealed the deal for Buffalo.
Three Observations from Sunday's game:
Braving the Elements
The cold and the wind is a given for any outdoor game. It's something every franchise gets to experience every couple years as the NHL cashes in on the spectacle. But Buffalo's lineup hasn't exactly had a ton of experience outdoors.
The last time the Sabres were outside, they lost 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers. Sabres forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo were on that squad. But Girgensons is hurt. Okposo has had this experience with the blue and gold before.
And that's the end of the list.
It seemed like anyone had a step on their opponent, regardless of the side, the backcheck had an easier time catching up. Shots and passes alike were fanned on as the snow accumulated. Despite the spectacle, outdoor hockey doesn't necessarily have to be pretty hockey.
Finding an answer
The first 20 minutes didn't yield a goal for either side, but the Sabres had plenty to hang their hat on from that frame. They were aggressive and paced the Maple Leafs in shots 13-8 at that point.
When Toronto forward Ondrej Kase broke the game open less than a minute into the second period, Peyton Krebs had an answer for the Sabres less than a minute later. It took longer after the Leafs' second goal, but Buffalo got another answer from the Krebs-Cozens-Hinostroza line.
If nothing else, that group has speed and that group goes to the net. In an ugly game where the elements take their toll, going back to basics like that is a must. And it gave the Sabres a chance in the third period when the same line cashed in for the third time.
Flip 'em around
An uncommon hazard of outdoor games is the wind. Bills fans, however, will know the elements well after this past football season. The Sabres, however, experienced an interruption of a power play in order to not have the wind affect their final frame.
The Maple Leafs smartly held the puck in Buffalo's corner until the ten minute mark of the third period. The extra breakout took the wind out of Buffalo's sails, but the man advantage didn't need it.
The Krebs-Cozens-Hinostroza line created their own wind. They breathed life into this entire game.
For what it's worth, three of Buffalo's four goals were scored at the end they shot at "once," but such is the way when the elements come into the mix. The Sabres are back indoors on Thursday when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.