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Golden Knights top Sabres in goalie Robin Lehner’s debut

Updated February 28, 2020 - 10:50 pm

Robin Lehner allowed a goal on the first shot he faced Friday, as well as the last.

In between, the Golden Knights goaltender was stellar.

Lehner finished with 32 saves in his debut as the Knights matched a franchise record with their eighth straight win, 4-2 over Buffalo on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.

“You just get traded, you just want to go in and do your best and give the guys a chance to win,” Lehner said. “There wasn’t that many shots in the second, but I thought there was some really good chances and then they came out in the third and took care of me.”

Reilly Smith scored twice in the third period after William Karlsson had the go-ahead goal 3:06 into the third.

Nicolas Roy had a first-period goal and Zach Whitecloud picked up an assist for his first NHL point.

The Knights also won eight straight from Dec. 14, 2017, to Jan. 2, 2018.

Lehner, acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline Monday, had a tough act to follow after Marc-Andre Fleury shut out Edmonton on Wednesday to open the four-game homestand.

Dominik Kahun scored 2:16 into the game, but Lehner settled down and had three key saves in the second period.

He also turned away Jeff Skinner with about 13:30 to play to win his first start since Feb. 19.

“That’s not an easy spot to go in,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “You’re following Flower’s best game of the year in a shutout and your first home game and the pressure’s on. We’ve got a win streak, and you don’t want to be the one to break that. It was a tough game for me to stick him in, and I thought he responded well.”

Here’s what stood out from the win:

Nosek leaves early

The Knights are without leading scorer Mark Stone (lower body) for an undisclosed period, and Tomas Nosek was knocked from the game with about seven minutes remaining in the first period.

DeBoer did not have an update on Nosek’s status after the game.

Nosek was knocked on his tail by former teammate Colin Miller soon after the Sabres defenseman was honored by the announced crowd of 18,404 during a video tribute in his first trip back to T-Mobile Arena.

Then, Nosek was wiped out in the neutral zone by Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons and was slow to get up before heading off the ice.

Nosek spent five games in a full shield after getting hit in the face with the puck Feb. 4 and also left the Feb. 21 game in the third period after it appeared he was again struck in the face.

Fantastic February

This was a massive month for the Knights against a rugged schedule that included matchups against the past two Stanley Cup winners and two games against Tampa Bay.

The Knights steamrolled to a 10-2-1 record (21 points) and extended their lead in the Pacific Division to six points.

The .808 points percentage is their second-best record in a month in franchise history behind the 11-1-1 mark from December 2017.

“It was a make-or-break month,” DeBoer said. “I think coming out of the All-Star break, I don’t think there was any doubt February was going to define our season. I thought the guys really dug deep.”

Career high for Smith

Quietly, Smith is closing in on 30 goals for the first time after his two-goal performance against the Sabres.

Smith put the Knights ahead 3-1 at 5:25 of the third period when he circled the net and beat Buffalo goalie Carter Hutton on a wraparound.

He added an empty-net goal from the red line late in the third and has 27 goals, two better than his previous best set with Florida in 2015-16.

“I play with great linemates, and they give me a lot of opportunities,” Smith said. “Just seems like the puck is going in a little more.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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