Newly acquired right wing Matt D’Agostini had a solid performance in his first appearance with the Buffalo Sabres. D’Agostini was held off the score sheet, but he managed to record three shots on goal in 15:39 of ice time and finished the game with a plus-1 rating.
D’Agostini came in with a simple mindset, ready to work hard for the team, and he accomplished that tonight.
“I was just trying to work hard and contribute in any way I can,” D’Agostini said after Buffalo’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center on Friday. “Early on, I didn’t want to try and do anything special, just work hard and shoot the puck. I think I passed up a couple opportunities, but it felt good to get the first one under my belt.”
Buffalo claimed the 27-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native off waivers on Tuesday.
D’Agostini played right wing on a line with Ville Leino at center and captain Steve Ott at left wing and the three seemed to develop chemistry quickly as the game went on. D’Agostini was very complementary of the play of his linemates.
“Ville was great controlling the puck and rags it for a while and finds the open man, and [Ott’s] great on the forecheck. He’s hitting and creating space for other guys,” he said.
Ott was impressed with his new teammate’s debut.
“I’m sure it was pretty nerve-wracking,” Ott said. “That’s tough coming in to a new team and a new atmosphere and he just wants to have a good showing, but it was fun to play with him. I thought he was strong on pucks. He was ready for pucks all the time.”
D’Agostini, currently in his seventh season in the League, played 275 games with Montreal, St. Louis, New Jersey and Pittsburgh before joining the Sabres. In that time, D’Agostini totaled 47 goals and 49 assists. In 2010-11 as a member of the Blues, D’Agostini had his most productive season at the NHL level, notching 21 goals and 25 assists in 82 games.
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D’Agostini had one of the biggest plays of the game in the final two minutes that kept Buffalo alive. With Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk on a breakaway against Ryan Miller, D’Agostini made a miraculous dive and swatted the puck away before knocking van Riemsdyk to the ice.
Keeping the game tied helped the Sabres get to overtime, where defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored the game-winning goal.
“I think it was a good no-call, just tried to get as much puck as I can. It was a good thing I went down because I think he would have stepped through my stick,” D’Agostini said.
Ott was delighted to see that the referees opted to not call a penalty on D’Agostini.
“That was probably one of the best calls I’ve seen all year. He got all puck,” Ott said. “It was the right call, which was great to see. Obviously it would have been easy to just give him a penalty, but it was the right call and the right play.”
Miller was equally happy to see the calls bounce in favor of Buffalo after being displeased with both the officiating and the outcome in the team’s 3-1 loss to Montreal on Wednesday.
“We just talked about that, and it came around,” Miller said. “It was a great effort by D’Agostini. He got back hard, and he had to make the right decision. Ref decided that he got the puck, and we haven’t changed that rule where if you get the puck first, you’re probably not going to get the tripping penalty. Great effort getting back, and it helped us get to overtime.”
On Ehrhoff's goal, D'Agostini was parked in front of the net and prevented Toronto goaltender James Reimer from seeing the shot.
"If you look at the goal, D’Agostini, not only did he make a great defensive play on that one situation, but he was a great net-front presence on the goal," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "He didn’t stand off, try to tip it, he was in a good position to screen so that was a big play."
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Coming into tonight’s game, Toronto and Buffalo have been two of the League’s worst teams when it comes to getting shots on net and keeping opposing teams from getting shots. Buffalo averaged 25.3 shots per game for and 36.0 shots against per game, while Toronto averaged 26.1 and 36.1, respectively.
Buffalo outshot Toronto 29-24 in the game and the Sabres improved to 1-3-0 in games in which they outshot their opponents. This was the second time in the past 15 games that the Sabres were able to generate more shots than their opponents.
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Grigorenko was made a healthy scratch for the ninth time this season after playing in the last three games.
With the Sabres carrying eight defensemen, Nolan has been consistently rotating defensemen in and out of the lineup. McBain was a healthy scratch for his third straight game, while this was McNabb’s first game as a scratch since being called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Mike Weber returned to the ice in place of McNabb.
Center Cody McCormick remained on injured reserve, but interim coach Ted Nolan said that McCormick could possibly be active for Saturday’s game in New Jersey. The Sabres and Devils will square off at 7 p.m. from Prudential Center.
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