BUFFALO, N.Y. – None too happy about Paul Ranger trying to kick the puck past him in the shootout, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth slashed the Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman as he skated by.
“My first reaction was that he tried to embarrass me there a little bit, but when I look at it now, it’s good (the) guy’s trying to be creative, I guess,” he said.
Enroth had plenty of time to think because the shootout went an incredible 15 rounds, including 29 combined shooters who didn’t score a goal. When it was over the Leafs had a 3-2 victory Saturday night thanks to Jay McClement’s winner, but the Sabres got their kicks out of the pre-season marathon.
“At one point I think both refs were just going to call it a draw and kind of pick up the puck and go home and be old-school NHL there for a second and call it a tie,” Sabres forward Steve Ott said. “But both performances by both goalies in the shootout was pretty spectacular to watch. I’ve never seen that before.”
Leafs goaltender James Reimer stopped all 15 shots he saw after making 38 saves in regulation and overtime. Reimer went 0 for 5 in shootouts last season with a .625 save percentage, and wasn’t making much of this.
“It’s good to get out there and for me to stop some pucks and for guys to get some reps, but it’s exhibition and it’s a little looser,” Reimer said. “I think it’s a little different when it’s during a game and two points are on the line.”
Ranger probably wouldn’t have tried this in a real game. He learned his “kick shot” from a friend at the age of 10 or 11 and perfected it enough that it beat goalies in practice plenty.
“It’s gotten to the point where I can rip it pretty good, I feel like,” he said. “The cool part of it is I have no idea where it’s going, and the goalie doesn’t either because I sure don’t.”
Asked about Enroth’s slash and the idea that it was not the right thing to do, Ranger said: “Not the right thing to do? I’m trying to score. Quite honestly it’s fun and, to be honest, I’m not trying to show boat, and if he thought that, then it is what it is. Whatever.”
Ott gave Ranger credit for the kick being a “pretty heavy shot.” But it was a deke by McClement that finally ended things.
“A lot of light-heartenedness taking place on the bench,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “A lot of guys betting on Jay, so we waited right till the end.”
Before the shootout, the game had the chippiness normally reserved for the regular season. It featured three fights, including Troy Bodie taking on Patrick Kaleta after the Sabres agitator went after captain Dion Phaneuf.
From the Leafs’ perspective, Ott started the trouble before that dust-up.
“I think Ott intentionally shot the puck at Dion,” Carlyle said. “That’s what it appeared from where we were. Those are the kind of things that in exhibition are kind of questionable at this point.”
The Leafs and Sabres played on the edge all night. Carlyle said it the 15-round was something he had never seen before, but even for those with similar experiences this was something unique.
“We had one in Rochester, I think we went through everybody except for maybe Joe Finley. I think we had a call-up score,” Rolston said. “(This one) was bizarre, especially with no goals.”