Athanasiou, Petersen team up in Kings’ 3-0 win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A long list of injuries prevented Andreas Athanasiou from making an offensive impact for the Los Angeles Kings for much of this season.
On Sunday, in his first game back after missing five nursing an undisclosed ailment, Athanasiou put on display what he’s capable of by scoring twice in a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
The seventh-year forward, who had a career-best 30 goals three seasons ago with Detroit, opened the scoring with his 100th career goal off a 2-on-1 break with 3:05 remaining in the second period. Athanasiou then sealed the Kings’ seventh win in nine games by scoring the first of L.A.’s two empty-net goals in the final minute.
“Any time you can put the puck in the back of the net, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Athanasiou, who played just his 20th game of the season.
An even bigger boost was the faith assistant coach Trent Yawney showed in having him on the ice after Buffalo pulled its goalie while pressing to tie the game before Athanasiou made it 2-0 with 59 seconds left.
“Those are big moments and big times in the game, and obviously you want to be out there and be able to get the puck out and ice the game,” he added. “Fortunately it worked out.”
Cal Peterson stopped 19 shots for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career, and Dustin Brown also scored.
The Sabres appear to have avoided a major scare with 8:55 remaining, when top-line forward Alex Tuch left the game after crashing into the left post on a partial short-handed breakaway.
Coach Don Granato said initial tests ruled out a head injury, while noting Tuch will have further tests to ensure there are no other injuries from the collision.
After his initial shot was stopped, Tuch tapped the rebound toward the net only to be stopped by Petersen. Tuch, however, couldn’t stop his momentum and crashed into the net appearing to strike the post with his right shoulder.
The Sabres, coming off wins over Minnesota and Toronto, squandered a chance to win three straight for just the second time after opening the season 3-0. Dustin Tokarski stopped 29 shots in dropping to 1-4-1 since missing nearly two months battling COVID-19.
Sprung by a long pass from Mikey Anderson, Athanasiou broke up the left wing and fired a shot from the left circle which appeared to tip off the stick of Buffalo defender Casey Fitzgerald and sailed in over Tokarksi’s left shoulder.
The Kings, who entered the game allowing the fewest shots per game in the league, then clamped down in outshooting the Sabres 10-5 over the final 23 minutes and 32-19 overall.
“That’s as focused a shutdown effort as you’ll see,” Granato said of the Kings ability to negate chances once they gained the lead. “The first goal of the game is of major significance. They got it, they got the first goal and they were able to really anchor down from that point forward.”
Buffalo’s two best scoring chances came in the final minute of the first period, only to be denied by Petersen.
With 25 seconds remaining, the goalie got his blocker up to get a piece of Jeff Skinner’s shot from the slot. Some 15 seconds later, Petersen got his glove up to foil Tage Thompson’s backhand while driving alone to the net.
“The game was probably very close to our identity as a group,” said Yawney, who has spent the past 10 days filling in after head coach Todd McLellan was placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. “The one thing our guys are really comfortable with is in those close games.”
Yawney joked of being happy to hand back the duties to McLellan, who is scheduled to rejoin the team for its game at Boston on Monday.
“Yeah, I’m done now. I did my thing. It’s up to him now,” said Yawney, who went 4-2 in McLellan’s absence.
Kings LW Viktor Arvidsson, who scored three times in a 4-3 OT win at Columbus on Friday, did not return after sustaining a lower-body injury early in the third period. LW Brendan Lemieux did not play and is listed day to day with a left leg injury after he was hurt in the opening period against Columbus. ... Sabres forward Vinnie Hinostroza was activated off injured reserve and returned after missing 18 games with a lower-body injury.
Kings: Continue four-game road swing at the Bruins on Monday night.
Sabres: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday night.
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