Skinner's four points lead Sabres over Canadiens
On Thursday night, he produced a couple of his own.
Levi stopped 32 shots and earned the game’s first star as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Canadiens 6-1 in his Montreal homecoming.
The 22-year-old rookie from nearby Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., had 99 family and friends in attendance to watch him man the same crease his idol occupied for years.
"I've dreamt of this moment since I was five years old,” Levi said. “It's incredible to be there, in that crease, after him and a lot of other great goalies, it was a really special night."
Jeff Skinner had one goal and three assists to lead the Sabres offence.
“Tonight is an example of many other nights that he's turning in a great performance for us,” Buffalo head coach Don Granato said. “He's a talented guy, he has some calm to him, he's unwavered in lots of instances, so we're glad to have him.”
“I think our forecheck was a little off tonight, we were managing the puck poorly, turning pucks over — all the stuff that hurts you,” Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki said. “We just didn’t have our game tonight, we were trying to find it but just didn’t have it.”
Also back at home, Levi took an especially long morning skate before the game to “take it all in.”
The young netminder says he normally listens to the Canadiens' pre-game song, “Fix You” by Coldplay, through his headphones before taking the ice.
“I didn't have to tonight because the jumbotron played it for me," he said.
With “Fix You” still ringing in his ears, Levi looked ready early and turned away all 15 shots in the first period.
Midway through the opening period, he robbed Jesse Ylonen’s one-timer on the doorstep and somehow kept the puck from crossing the goal line despite a couple whacks at it from the Canadiens forward.
"It was so close, I knew it hadn't gone in but it was centimetres,” Levi said. “It was a good way to get in the game, I think I was locked in after that."
Armia beat Levi through a screen two minutes into the second period, but the goal was overturned when the Sabres challenged for goaltender interference.
Mittelstadt then finished off a feed in front of the net from Skinner on the power play to open the scoring at 5:33.
Skinner doubled Buffalo’s lead with another power-play goal just 86 seconds later for his 26th goal against the Canadiens — tied with Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews for second-most among all active players.
"The power play obviously got off to a good start during the second period and then I thought our line played well,” Skinner said. “When your line plays well, you're going to have individual success."
Armia got one back on the penalty kill after stripping Dahlin and scoring with a wrist shot over Levi’s left shoulder 13:19 into the period.
Buffalo squashed Montreal’s momentum in the third period with even-strength goals from Quinn and Thompson, who made it 4-1 at 8:35 by tapping home a feed from Skinner on the goal line.
Levi kept Montreal from clawing back with a point-blank save on Josh Anderson minutes later.
After Dahlin scored an empty-net goal with over five minutes left, Levi was at it again. This time he flashed the glove on Montreal sharpshooter Cole Caufield, making his best impression of his idol.
"I've seen that a lot of times,” said Levi. “It was just an instinct, I didn't know I would do that, a little vintage Carey Price."
Suzuki and Buffalo’s Dahlin were named NHL all-stars Thursday night as part of 32 players who will represent their respective teams at the NHL all-star game. The final 12 players will be decided by a fan vote.
All-star weekend is set for Feb. 1-3 in Toronto.
Canadiens: Finish a two-game homestand against the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Sabres: Play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday to end a three-game road trip.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2024.