Buffalo Sabres 2013 top pick Rasmus Ristolainen powered home the game-winner Thursday during Buffalo’s opener at the NHL Prospects Tournament. On Friday, it was fellow first-round pick and defenseman Nikita Zadorov’s turn to save the day in Traverse City, Mich.
Zadorov’s second goal of the game with 21.6 seconds left in overtime enabled Buffalo to earn a 6-5 triumph over the New York Rangers. The Sabres improved to 2-0 in the tournament and return to action Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. against Carolina.
The Sabres, the defending champions in the event, would advance to Monday’s tournament final with a win Sunday.
Chad Ruhwedel and Zemgus Girgensons earned the assists on the goal that capped a wild stretch of nearly 15 minutes in which the teams combined for six goals – three by each team. Girgensons made the pass from below the goal line into the high slot for Zadorov, who stepped into one and beat the goalie cleanly.
Buffalo seemed to be comfortably ahead with 10:11 left in the third period when Nicholas Baptiste and Eric Locke scored 22-seconds apart to give the Sabres a 5-2 lead.
New York needed just 5:49 to tie things, however, with Oscar Lindberg’s third of the game making it 5-4 just 23 seconds before Josh Graves tied it for the baby Broadway Blue Shirts. Danny Kristo, who netted the game-winner in a 2-1 victory for North Dakota last March against Niagara at the NCAA Tournament, also scored for New York.
“It was kind of one of those situations where we gave up the lead late ... but I even felt with us giving up that lead we were still playing some good hockey,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “It was just a matter of us being patient, playing the right way and playing the right way in overtime.”
Locke finished with a goal and three points for the Sabres, while Baptiste had two goals and an assist. Logan Nelson also scored. Andrey Makarov made 27 saves in the win.