Sabres' Levi ecstatic after 1st win: NHL debut was 'everything and more'
The Devon Levi era in Buffalo kicked off Friday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers, and the 21-year-old Sabres goaltender said his NHL debut exceeded his expectations.
"(It was) everything and more. ... It was a dream come true. ... The game went by fast. I was having fun," a smiling Levi told reporters postgame. "I guess when you're having fun, things go fast. It honestly went by in a blur. It was amazing."
Levi stopped 31 shots, good for a .939 save percentage. He faced 20 shots in the third period alone, but the busy frame was his favorite part of the night.
"They get a goal and then a power play, it's a 2-2 game, what are you going to do to give your team a chance to win?" he said. "That's when the pressure is on, those are the moments I love.
"I was just having fun out there, I wanted some one-timers on that power play, I wanted them to find the seam and test me."
A rousing "Levi" chant broke out after the youngster made a stunning cross-crease stop on Kaapo Kakko late in the second period.
"It was unbelievable, the fans are unreal," Levi said. "It's so nice having that support coming in as a new guy. It just makes it so much easier to have the warm welcome from everyone."
Veteran forward Jeff Skinner pointed to Levi after scoring the overtime winner, and the team rushed to the netminder as the goal horn sounded.
Skinner said he "blacked out" during the moment.
"I don't know if you know, but they were trying to keep him in a cage," he joked. "I was just trying to let the beast go."
Skinner's quip referenced comments Levi made the week prior while waiting for his immigration papers to be finalized. "You can't keep the beast tamed in the cage for too long," the goaltender warned, according to beat reporter Bill Hoppe.
Levi said he "learned a lot" from his first taste of NHL action.
"I learned that the NHL is hockey. It's just the game of hockey, it's the game that I've been playing my whole life. ... It's been my dream to be challenged by the best, and I'm finally here.
"I have an opportunity right now. ... I thought I played well, I definitely know what I can improve on. I feel like I have more."
Buffalo signed Levi to a three-year, entry-level contract earlier in March.
The Sabres are five points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand.
Buffalo will visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.