VANCOUVER — Goalie Thatcher Demko guided his Vancouver Canucks to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, stopping 36-of-39 shots in his second-ever NHL appearance.
Alex Edler, Sven Baertschi, Brock Boeser and Loui Eriksson all scored for Vancouver (22-21-6).
The Sabres (24-18-6) got goals from Evan Rodrigues, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart.Linus Ullmark had 19 saves.
Demko — who played a single game for Vancouver last season — was called up from the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets on Jan. 4 after the club traded backup netminder Anders Nilsson to the Ottawa Senators.
The 23-year-old goalie was tested early and often on Friday, and put up an performance that had the crowd chanting “Dem-Ko!” in appreciation for some highlight reel-worthy stops.
Buffalo’s Rodrigues beat the young goaltender to get the scoring started 8:48 in after Rasmus Ristolainen got a pass to the left-winger down low and Rodrigues chipped it up over Demko’s pad.
Vancouver had yet to register a single shot.
Edler got the Canucks on the board three-and-a-half minutes later, taking a massive slap shot from the blue line. The speeding puck snuck through traffic and in past Ullmark down low.
Vancouver went up by one 15:31 into the first after defenceman Derrick Pouliot sliced a pass through the Buffalo crease to Baertschi, who collected it on his tape and popped the puck into a wide-open net.
The Swiss left-winger suffered a concussion in October that kept him out of the lineup for 30 games. He has six points since he returned late last month.
Early in the second frame, both Pouliot and fellow defenceman Erik Gudbranson got caught down behind the Vancouver net, leaving Okposo wide open at the hash marks.
The right-winger got the puck and flipped a back-handed shot past Demko to even the score.
Vancouver pulled ahead once again eight minutes into the second period.
Bo Horvat stripped Buffalo’s Lawrence Pilut of the puck and made a beautiful pass to Boeser in front of the Sabres net.
The right-winger tipped it in for his 16th goal of the season.
Horvat’s assist was his 200th NHL point.
But the lead didn’t last long. Almost three minutes later, Conor Sheary made a quick pass to Reinhart in front of the Vancouver crease and the B.C. native put a no-look back-handed shot top shelf.
Nearly six minutes into the third period, Canucks left-winger Josh Leivo dug the puck out from behind Buffalo’s net and dished it to Eriksson.
Eriksson put a one-timer past Ullmark for his fourth point in three games.
The Sabres had opportunities to tie things up once again on a power play late in the third with Ullmark pulled with 87 seconds left, but Demko held strong.
The Canucks will be back in action on Sunday when they host the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sabres are now off until after the all-star break.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press