BUFFALO, N.Y. — Ryan O’Reilly has had plenty of nights to remember in his first year with the Buffalo Sabres. On Thursday, it was his older brother’s time to shine.
Cal O’Reilly scored twice to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the first two-goal game of his career.
“Just to watch him have success tonight, it’s awesome,” Ryan O’Reilly said. “I watch him train, I see everything he does and it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Ryan O’Reilly has been a sensation in his first year with the Sabres (32-35-11), leading the team with 56 points. His brother, meanwhile, has bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL throughout his career, but has made the most of his opportunities with the Sabres this year.
The two got to share the credit on Buffalo’s game-winning goal with friends and family from Canada in attendance.
With time running out in the first period, Ryan O’Reilly found Jack Eichel inside the left circle. Eichel spotted a wide-open Cal O’Reilly in the slot and the center buried a wrist shot for his second goal of the year.
“That was our first together,” Cal O’Reilly said. “It was pretty special for our family. Our parents were here so I’m sure they were cheering pretty loud and they were proud of us.”
His second goal was even better. Early in the second period, Cal O’Reilly raced to pick up a loose puck inside the left circle. He then hammered a slap shot into the net to make it 3-0 at 3:41.
“Any time you can contribute,” Cal O’Reilly said. “Guys are out of the lineup and I got an opportunity to be on power play with some of those guys. Any time you can help the team win obviously is good.”
Johan Larsson opened the scoring for Buffalo and added an empty-net goal in the game’s final seconds. The Sabres got off to a quick start and were a much different team after struggling in their previous two encounters with the Maple Leafs.
“Different than the last two in Toronto, yes,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “I thought one of our better games as of late, as well.”
Brooks Laich scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs (28-38-11). Garret Sparks made 33 saves.
“They were on top of us, and they were better than we were,” Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said. “You have to give them credit for that. … You’ve got to be better at the start of games. If you don’t start on time, you lose. And tonight was exactly that.”
Larsson opened the scoring 7:09 into the game. After setting up a defenseman screen in the right circle, Larsson lifted a high wrist shot off the bottom of the crossbar and in for his eighth goal of the year.
O’Reilly’s first goal gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead shortly before the end of the first period, and his second put the Leafs far behind early into the second period. Buffalo outshot Toronto 16-5 through one period and 28-16 through two periods.
Laich got the Maple Leafs on the board with 6:28 remaining in the second. Following a nice setup by Tobias Lindberg from behind the Sabres net, Laich’s one-timer beat Johnson for his second goal of the year.
“Big sense of relief actually for myself,” Laich said of his first goal with the Maple Leafs. “Scoring goals is fun. It always has been. It’s been a tough year for myself offensively.”
Buffalo appeared to make it 4-1 with 2:43 remaining in the second on a long shot by defenseman Mark Pysyk, but the goal was nullified due to incidental contact with Sparks. A replay challenge from Buffalo confirmed the initial decision.
Larsson added an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining.
The O’Reilly brothers weren’t the only Sabres celebrating a career highlight. With the victory, Sabres goalie Chad Johnson (20-16-4) reached 20 wins for the first time in his career. Johnson was solid between the pipes and has exceeded expectations since being pressed into extra duty this season with Robin Lehner injured.
“To see him get 20 wins, it’s something I certainly would have taken at the beginning of this year,” Bylsma said. “I am happy for him. It’s a significant marker for him in his career.”
NOTES: The Maple Leafs recalled four players and sent four to the Toronto Marlies in the AHL earlierThursday. Toronto recalled RW Kasperi Kapanen, RW Tobias Lindberg, D Andrew Campbell and D T.J. Brennan. Kapanen, Lindberg and Brennan were recalled on an emergency basis. RW Connor Brown, F Zach Hyman, D Rinat Valiev and D Connor Carrick were sent to the Marlies. … D Matt Hunwick, C Peter Holland, RW Nikita Soshnikov, C Leo Komarov and D Viktor Loov were scratched for the Maple Leafs. … LW Evander Kane, D Carlo Colaiacovo, D Cody Franson, G Jason Kasdorf and G Robin Lehner were scratched for the Sabres. Kane was ruled out for the remainder of the season earlierThursday with an upper-body injury.