Hutton’s emergence from a long slump allowed the Sabres to utilize him regularly again.
So Johansson, a rookie the Sabres recalled when Linus Ullmark suffered a lower-body injury, patiently waited to play another game.
Prior to earning his first NHL victory in Sunday’s afternoon 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets, a game in which he often dazzled, Johansson hadn’t played since Feb. 9.
Johansson used the time as a backup to hone his game, working closely with assistant coach Mike Bales, who’s in charge of the goalies.
“You got to have a little extra focus in practice when you’re not playing that often so just staying sharp, working on the details, staying ready for the opportunity when it comes,” Johansson said following his 25-save effort inside KeyBank Center.
Another opportunity finally materialized Sunday. Hutton, who has been nursing a lower-body injury, needed a break after making 41 saves in Saturday afternoon’s 5-2 road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Johansson, 24, looked strong throughout his fourth NHL appearance, stopping 10 shots in the first period, five in the second and nine in the third. Only Jets captain Blake Wheeler beat him 16:37 into the game.
The Swede kept the game tied at 1 in the second period, stopping point-blank opportunities from Jets forwards Jansen Harkins and Nikolaj Ehlers.
“Just sticking to the plan, you’ve got to try to stay relaxed and stay in the moment,” Johansson said of his play during the second period. “That’s just what you’ve got to do and sometimes you have a little luck, too.”
Sabres winger Kyle Okposo, who scored both goals, called Johansson’s performance “huge.”
“He played stellar in the second period, we did not have our legs,” he said. “We weren’t really making the right decisions with the puck, and he really covered up all of our mistakes. So it was a such a big game for him and huge win for him.”
Johansson, an AHL All-Star with the Rochester Americans, said Bales simply preached he stay with his habits during his long break.
“All the skating, the tracking, the patience – all that’s going to come natural when the game comes,” he said. “You’ve just got to make sure that happens – and it does – when you have good habits in practice. That’s biggest thing we’ve been doing.”
While Johansson bailed out the Sabres a few times, his teammates locked down and helped him late. The Jets registered their last shot on goal with 9:24 left.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys managed that and stayed on our toes,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “Really J.J. had set up the game to make that possible in the first place.”
Johansson said: “That’s just unbelievable the way they stepped up there for me and for the rest of the team to get the win.”
He added: “The last period went by pretty slowly it felt like but it was nice when the buzzer went off, for sure.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed former Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian to a one-year, $1.3 million contract, the team announced Sunday night.
Bogosian, 29, refused to report to Rochester after he cleared waivers earlier this month. The Sabres then suspended him before terminating his contract Saturday.
During Krueger’s time as president of Southampton F.C., an English Premier League soccer team, he kept in regular contact with Jets coach Paul Maurice, his close friend.
“I wouldn’t be here in the National Hockey League if it wasn’t for my friendship with Paul,” Krueger said. “He was my biggest connection here over the last five years when I was in England. We were in permanent touch when I was in the offseason and in season.”
Krueger said he and Maurice have a “friendly wager” on their teams’ meetings this season. The Sabres play March 3 in Winnipeg.
Maurice, who served an an assistant when Krueger coached Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, said he “stole” a lot of ideas from Krueger.
“He’s an interesting man,” Maurice said. “If you get a chance to sit down and talk hockey with him, it lasts for hours because he’s engaging, he has unusual viewpoints but he’s very articulate and he can communicate exceptionally well. I’ve enjoyed our relationship very much. You leave, not just after a hockey conversation but a life conversation, energized. … He’s had a big impact on the way I look at things.”
Notes: Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu played his first game in Buffalo since the Sabres traded him last season. The Sabres welcomed him back on the video boards. … The Sabres scratched defenseman John Gilmour and forward Evan Rodrigues (both healthy). … The Sabres have today off. The trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. … Sabres captain Jack Eichel did not take any faceoffs for the second straight game. Eichel, who had a maintenance day from practice last week, is nursing an undisclosed injury.