BUFFALO, N.Y. – Michael McLeod and Miles Wood each scored two goals to lead the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Sunday.
Wood assisted on McLeod’s go-ahead goal midway through the third period.
Andreas Johnsson also scored for New Jersey. The Devils bounced back from a shootout loss Saturday to finish the back-to-back set with a win despite being without several top players because of injury and virus-related circumstances.
“It certainly shows that we have a lot of fight,” Wood said. “Me and Mango (Johnsson) were the two oldest forwards out there at 25 and 26 years old. So it’s an extremely young team, and the fact that we kept on fighting throughout the game and we never got down on ourselves, I think it just shows the type of group that we have. It’s a young group, but a fiery group.”
Devils coach Lindy Ruff was encouraged by the hustle and enthusiasm his young team showed.
“As a coach standing behind the bench, it’s something that just puts a smile on your face,” said Ruff, who coached in Buffalo for 16 seasons following an eight-year playing career. “There was no quit in them.”
Eric Comrie made 30 saves in his first start for the Devils.
“He was awesome,” Wood said. “Made some huge saves for us. And he showed up in the big moments. He was great tonight and that was huge win.”
Rasmus Ristolainen had a goal and assist for the Sabres, who had a 3-0-2 streak snapped. Buffalo also got goals from Rasmus Dahlin and Curtis Lazar, while Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson each had two assists. Carter Hutton stopped 32 of 36 shots.
“Our puck management was really bad tonight,” Sabres coach Ralph Kreuger said. “We were playing into their hustle. We were playing into their persistent checking. I wouldn’t say we didn’t work. The guys worked hard to get us back from down two and then down 3-2 again with a late, painful goal. In the end, you have to give it to New Jersey. They deserve this win today.“
McLeod put the Devils ahead for good with his second goal at 10:40 of the third period. He chipped the puck in from close range after Hutton couldn’t control the rebound from Wood’s shot.
Wood scored into an empty net in the closing seconds.
Ristolainen beat Comrie on a second effort from the edge of the crease to give Buffalo a tying goal on a power play early in the third period.
Wood put the Devils ahead 3-2 when he scored on a breakaway in the last second of the second period. Janne Kuokkanen created the scoring chance when he dove at the blue line and poked the puck away from Buffalo’s Colin Miller. Wood gloved the puck and knocked in the rebound after Hutton stopped his initial shot from the right slot.
“It was a great play by Kuoks and and I was fortunate enough to sneak one in there with 0.9 seconds left,” Wood said. “If that happened to us, it would certainly take the wind out of our sails, for sure. It was, I guess you could say, a big goal for us.”
The Sabres scored twice in a 1:12 span late in the second period to tie the game at 2. Lazar redirected Ristolainen’s slap shot from near the right wall into the net, and Dahlin scored his first of the season on a power-play shot from the point.
The Devils had goals in the first and last minute of the opening period to take a 2-0 lead.
P.K. Suban’s stretch pass set up McLeod on a partial breakaway 20 seconds into the game.
New Jersey’s second goal bounced in off Johnsson’s body during a scrum in front of the net with 17 seconds left in the period. Jesper Bratt’s shot from the point caromed off Hutton’s shoulder and the stick of Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt before touching Johnsson.
Devils: RW Kyle Palmieri entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Sunday, the team announced, joining fellow alternate captain Travis Zajac, who entered the protocol on Friday and did not make the trip to Buffalo. … LW Mikhail Maltsey made his NHL debut after being called up from the taxi squad along with C Jesper Boqvist. … R Nicholas Merkley was assigned to the taxi squad.
Sabres: RW Sam Reinhart missed his second game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. … LW Casey Mittelstadt was called up from the taxi squad and replaced RW Tage Thompson in the lineup. … D Henri Jokiharju was scratched in favour of D Matt Irwin.
Devils: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Thursday.
Sabres: At New York Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday.