Michael Houser stops a shot in Tuesday’s win. ©2021, Micheline Veluvolu

Goalie Michael Houser stands out again, helps Sabres win shootout

BUFFALO – Hours before Michael Houser’s second NHL start, interim Sabres coach Don Granato said he wasn’t concerned about his goalie becoming fatigued.

Coaches, of course, rarely use the same goalie on back-to-back nights. The position is simply too taxing.

But Granato, having lost his other goalies, needed Houser again Tuesday, a night after his big league debut. It was also his first game at any level in nearly 14 months.

Granato was confident Houser, 28, would embrace the challenge and fight through against the New York Islanders in the home finale at KeyBank Center.

Sure enough, Houser looked sharp, stopping 45 shots and another three in the shootout as the Sabres roared back from another two-goal deficit to win 4-3.

When Houser thwarted Oliver Wahlstrom’s third-round shootout attempt, the Sabres let out a collective yell from the bench before skating out to embrace their goalie.

“It was great in the end that we didn’t win the shootout by scoring the goal,” Granato said on a Zoom call. “We won the shootout by making a save and that’s fitting with how he started the game. He finished the game helping us.”

Houser stopped 20 shots in the first period and 18 in the third, keeping the Sabres in the contest.

He said “everyone’s just happy to win” as a trying season nears its end.

“I’m sure they’re happy for me, personally, as well,” Houser said. “But in general, we know that the season’s winding down, we only have a few games left. To feel good going into the summer, that’s pretty big for everyone.”

After the Sabres fell behind 3-1, newcomer Anders Bjork took over, scoring twice in regulation and again in shootout. He tied the game 10:56 into the third period.

Granato promoted Bjork, a winger the Sabres acquired from the Boston Bruins last month, to the first line late in Monday’s 4-2 win over the Islanders.

But Tuesday was Houser’s night again.

After stopping 34 shots Monday, Houser, who has spent most of his career in the ECHL, said he was operating off adrenaline most of the game.

“Very impressed because he had to battle through,” Granato said of Houser’s performance. “We made things a little more challenging than we had to or a lot more challenging than we had to. He helped us weather a storm until we got our legs and got to our game, which really didn’t happen until, at the earliest, the halfway point in that game. He was great.”

Bjork said Houser has “done just an amazing job.”

“You’ve got to really tip your hat to that guy,” he said. “He came in here and did his job so well and we’re all so proud of him and excited for him. … He’s got such a positive energy about himself. It’s extremely impressive to be a goalie and play back-to-back and all the way with a ton of shots against and take it all the way to the shootout. (To) stop three straight is just an amazing feat by any goalie.”

It was an amazing feat by the Sabres to erase deficits back-to-back nights and defeat the Islanders, whose rigid structure makes them one of the NHL’s heavyweights.

“We did a good job bringing energy,” Bjork said. “Both games we didn’t start the way we wanted exactly, especially tonight, I thought, but we responded well and competed for 60 minutes. I think that was extremely important. With the young legs and young bodies we have on this team, we have the ability to stay energized the whole game and start making plays and breaking teams down. That was our focus.”

The Sabres, who have today off, close the season with road games Thursday and Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Houser could start both games if goalie Linus Ullmark hasn’t recovered from his lower-body injury.

Pittsburgh, coincidentally, is Houser’s hometown. PPG Paints Arena is hosting fans, so he will have to find some tickets.

“I’ve got to get a final number for the count but that’ll be really cool,” Houser said. “I’m not sure the schedule, who’s playing or what, but if I’m in there that’ll be really cool, having my parents there to see me play in the NHL. That will be really fun.”

One thought on “Goalie Michael Houser stands out again, helps Sabres win shootout”

  1. At one point I couldn’t wait for the season to end. Now I wish it wasn’t ending. The Sabres just put together 2 wins over the Islanders, in a most exciting way. Who would’ve thought a goalie who never played an NHL game would put up 2 wins in a row (and a shutout in the shootout), especially against the Islanders. Both Houser, and Bjork put on 2 great performances. Great fun, and another come from behind victory. Granato just keeps pulling rabbits out if hats. Finally some real hope for the season to come. GM Adams might have succeeded where his predecessors failed. Hall was a bust here, but Bjork has done more than Hall ever did for the Sabres. Management had better keep Granato as coach. He salvaged the season for fans, veterans and the young players. They are doing just fine, something fans have waited for for years.

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