Houser blanks Islanders in NHL debut

The Buffalo Sabres called up Michael Houser from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Storm to start in goal on Monday night.

“It’s super exciting,” Houser said. “I’m not really in that great of game shape either, I’ll admit that. So, I was like after the game celebrating and everything, I could barely breathe, so I’m just trying to catch my breath right now. [I’ll] give my parents a shout after this and see what their take is on it.”

The call-up proved smart as he made 34 saves in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders, in Buffalo.

“It was very cool. Special. Special. It was fun,” Sabres head coach Don Granato said. “I was halfway, I was walking off the bench and I had to stop and watch the celebration and the excitement. What an opportunity and an incredible job to seize an opportunity. A very special night, special person. So, [it was] great to be a part of it.

“And the locker room was even better. The rallying in the locker room was very, very enjoyable for all. What a moment.”

The Isles had a 2-0 lead off goals from Adam Pelech in the first period, and Oliver Wahlstrom  in the middle frame.

“I thought we played, and I’ll use a term I used with the players, I thought we played with a little bit of arrogance,” New York head coach Barry Trotz said.

Tage Thompson and Rasmus Asplund  scored for the Sabres to tie the game, 2-2.

“It took us a while to get to our game,” Granato said. ” … It was big that the non-goal was called the way it was. You don’t want to fall behind 2-0 at that point and so that was a key moment. But our guys stayed on it and, again, it was nice to see because of last game and we actually responded and had that in mind where we didn’t shoot the puck and we knew we had a tall task today in that regard.”

Sam Reinhart  scored twice for the Sabres in the third period to give them the lead.

“After I saw [the empty-net goal] went in, it was a huge relief,” Houser said. “It’s so exciting, like, I’ve worked my whole life for this, for it to happen. Just to play a game it’s really special, but to win, winning’s always the goal. That’s why we play.”

Semyon Varlamov made 36 saves in the loss.

“Even though we clinched a playoff spot and had an emotional weekend, that’s not an excuse,” Pelech said. “We’re definitely disappointed with how we played, and we’re aware of that. I thought we came out sluggish today when this is an opportunity to fight for positioning in the standings, play for home-ice advantage. We just we didn’t play our game tonight and we need to get back to it tomorrow.”