Thompson scores in OT as Sabres beat Flames 1-0

Eight years and two days after his first NHL shutout, journeyman goaltender Dustin Tokarski finally recorded his second – and against one of the NHL’s hottest teams.

Tage Thompson scored the only goal 3:07 into overtime and the 32-year-old Tokarski made 24 stops as the Buffalo Sabres won 1-0 on Friday night over the Calgary Flames.

Since that first shutout that came against Buffalo, while a member of the Montreal Canadiens, the 32-year-old has spent most of his time in the minors suiting up for eight different AHL teams over that stretch.

“It’s a heck of a league. Obviously the guy (Jacob Markstrom) at the other end knows how to get them,” said Tokarski. “I’ll try to get a few more in the future.”

A fifth-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2008, it was just his 57 career start, 20 of them coming this season. He improves to 6-9-4 on the season.

The biggest stop and a contender for save of the season was a highlight reel effort by Tokarski, who dove across the crease to take away what appeared to be a sure goal for Calle Jarnkrok after he was set up for an empty net by Andrew Mangiapane.

“That was ridiculous,” said Thompson. “I saw the dive across. At first I thought they scored and didn’t hear anything, so I had to check the replay. That was incredible. I’m not surprised though. He makes stops like that on everyone at practice.”

Listed as six feet, it took every inch of him and the full extension of his arm to get his glove on that chance.

“Just challenging (Mangiapane) and he made the pass. I was behind and kind of off-balance so I just dove over there and tried to get what I could and fortunately I made a save,” said Tokarski, whose family made the five-hour drive from his hometown of Saskatoon to be at the game.

Jarnkrok was making his Flames debut after the 30-year-old Swede was acquired Wednesday in a trade with the Seattle Kraken.

The win comes after Buffalo (21-33-8) got whipped 6-1 in Edmonton on Thursday night. The Sabres had been 1-6-4 previously in the back-end of back-to-back games.

“Last night might’ve been the worst game of the year and tonight was right up there with one of the top games,” said Sabres coach Don Granato. “Loved the response out of our guys to compete. The collective effort I thought was great.”

The Sabres wrap up their three-game trip on Sunday night in Vancouver.

It’s a rare lost point on home ice for Calgary (37-16-8), which is 15-1-2 in their last 18 games at the Saddledome.

Jacob Markstrom made 33 saves in he loss. He falls to 29-11-7.

After playing a brilliant game, it was Markstrom’s mistake on the deciding goal. He charged out of the net to clear a puck that had been shot in off the sideboards, but in attempting to shoot to safety, he whiffed on it and Thompson was right there to corral it and fire it into the empty net.

“It’s tough to watch, I mean Marky played really well for us tonight. Kept us in the game multiple times,” said Flames centre Mikael Backlund..

The 24 shots was a season low for the Pacific Division-leading Flames.

“It’s easy to score in October and November. You gotta get in to where the mud is a little more,” said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “That’s individuals, get in there and work and dig.”

But Sutter was still happy with the point. His club is back in action Saturday night in Vancouver.

“It’s a good point. That might be the point that gets you into the playoffs,” Sutter said. “It’s a good point for us. Didn’t score, got a point.”

After a lacklustre first period in which the teams combined for just 13 shots and few dangerous chances, things opened up a little more in the second period, but both goaltenders stood tall.

The two best chances of the third period went to Calgary, but Tokarski robbed Chris Tanev when he was set up at the side of the net by Johnny Gaudreau. With four minutes to go, Gaudreau had a breakaway, but shot over the net.

“Games are always tougher in March and April, getting ready for playoffs and stuff. So it’s a tight game and we got to make sure we learn how to win those tight games,” said Flames winger Trevor Lewis.

It was another strong night for Calgary’s penalty kill. The Flames entered the night with the league’s fourth best penalty kill, but first at home where after a three-for-three night is 76-for-81 on the season at the Saddledome.

The Flames only had one power play and it came 30 seconds into the game.

Notes: Cozens played career game No. 100… The Sabres improve to 2-6-4 in the back end of back-to-back games… Buffalo made one line-up change inserting Robert Hagg for Colin Miller on the blueline… Jarnkrok, Markstrom and Elias Lindholm are all from Gavle, Sweden, a town with a population of 75,000… After scoring his first goal of the season on Wednesday, Flames RW Brett Ritchie was a scratch.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2022.

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