LAS VEGAS — The early-season fate of the Buffalo Sabres and the Golden Knights should be reversed, but Vegas is proving it is not a customary expansion team that will take its licks.
The Sabres, in their 47th year as an NHL organization, arrive in Las Vegas for a Tuesday game coming off their first win of the season at Anaheim on Sunday. Also on Sunday, the Golden Knights won for the fourth time in their first five games.
Thanks to a 3-1 win over the Ducks, the Sabres’ first triumph under new coach Phil Housley, Buffalo is 1-4-1. Benoit Pouliot scored the decisive goal late in the second period, and goaltender Chad Johnson made 25 saves.
“I think everyone was happy,” Johnson said, commenting about his coach’s first win. “I think after the fact you realize that it was Phil’s first, but I think everybody was eager to get it for everybody.”
What better place to celebrate Housley’s first win than Las Vegas? Buffalo cannot take that approach with Vegas (4-1-0) waiting to pull another upset at home.
Vegas spoiled the Boston Bruins’ first trip to Sin City on Sunday with a 3-1 victory.
Alex Tuch and Vadim Shipachyov, both recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League over the weekend, scored their first career NHL goals against the Bruins.
Goalie Malcolm Subban, making his first start with the Golden Knights, stopped 21 shots while picking up his first career victory in front of a sellout crowd of 17,562 at the T-Mobile Arena.
Tuch and Shipachyov replaced injured center Jonathan Marchessault and left winger Erik Haula.
Subban played in place of starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who was placed on injured reserve with a concussion. Marchessault was also placed on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury.
Fleury started Vegas’ first four games this season, going 3-1-0 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said he is hopeful that Fleury, who has been sidelined multiple times with concussions during his 14-year NHL career — mostly with the Pittsburgh Penguins — could be back by Saturday.
Subban, claimed off waivers from the Bruins on Oct. 3, was making just the third start of his NHL career after compiling a 0-2 record and a 5.82 goals-against average with the Bruins.
“They were great call-ups today, obviously,” Gallant said of his influx of talent. “They played a good game, and they capitalized on their chances. When you lose players like Marchessault, Haula and Fleury in the last game and you bring these guys in, they’re a big part of our group. They played really well for us.”
The Sabres have injury concerns of their own. They placed defenseman Zach Bogosian on injured reserve Sunday with a lower-body injury. Bogosian, 27, had been limited in practice since being injured in Buffalo’s final preseason game. In 56 games last season, he recorded two goals and nine assists.
In a corresponding move, the Sabres recalled forward Justin Bailey from Rochester of the AHL, and he scored a goal Sunday against Anaheim in his NHL season debut. Bailey, 22, led Rochester with two goals and was tied for the team lead with a plus-2 rating through three games.
Buffalo defenseman Justin Falk (calf injury) and left winger Evan Rodrigues (hand) are also on injured reserve. Right winger Kyle Okposo is day-to-day with the flu.
Johnson and his teammates understand that playing Vegas will not be easy.
“At times like this (with only one win), you want to draw on your experience,” said Johnson, who has played in the NHL since 2009 for Buffalo (two different stints), the New York Rangers, the Phoenix Coyotes, Boston, the New York Islanders and the Calgary Flames.
“You ride the wave and just kind of get through it. … I think we’re gaining that maturity, that kind of composure.”
Two former Sabres — winger William Carrier and defenseman Brayden McNabb — are with the Golden Knights. Both were taken in the expansion draft. Carrier, 22, played in eight games with Buffalo last year. McNabb, 26, is a former third-round pick by Buffalo who was traded in 2014 to the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s been a crazy time,” McNabb told the Buffalo News. “The hockey has been a lot of fun, and when the tragedy happened (the mass shooting that occurred on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas), we all knew we wanted to get behind the city.
“Then you get the first three wins (to open the season) and it’s huge for our franchise and our fans. It’s been exciting to get the season going.”