NHL

Flames need OT to beat Sabres in 1st game since racism allegations sidelined coach

Matthew Tkachuk had a goal and set up the winner in a game played in front of a backdrop of uncertainty and questions regarding allegations made against Flames coach Bill Peters' past dealings with players before he arrived in Calgary.

Future of Bill Peters still up in air after coach issued apology to organization

Calgary associate coach Geoff Ward looks on prior to the first period of the Flames' 3-2 OT win against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. (Jeffrey T. Barnes/The Associated Press)

Flames captain Mark Giordano was thoroughly impressed with how Calgary rallied rather than unraveled.

Following two-plus days of facing questions regarding the uncertain status of coach Bill Peters, the Flames showed no signs of being distracted with Elias Lindholm scoring on a wraparound 1:17 into overtime of a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

"It's a four-game trip that's had a lot of adversity," Giordano said. "I think guys, what we did as players, we said to one another this is almost a way to get away from everything off the ice right now by playing games, practicing. And I thought we did a good job of that."

Peters has been accused of using racists slurs against a Nigerian-born player 10 years ago while the two were in the minors. And Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour on Wednesday backed another former player's allegation that Peters kicked and punched players on the bench during his previous four years coaching Carolina.

During the third period, Peters acknowledged using offensive language in dealing with forward Akim Aliu in writing a letter of apology addressed to general manager Brad Treliving, and obtained by TSN.

Without specifically referencing the words he used, Peters writes his comments to Akim Aliu were the source of both anger and disappointment in the letter posted Twitter. He adds the incident was made in a "moment of frustration and does not reflect my personal values."

Peters says he regretted the incident and apologizes to anyone negatively affected by it.

The letter was released while Peters is away from the team while the Flames and the NHL conduct an investigation into the matter.

Calgary Flames associate coach Geoff Ward runs players through practice on Tuesday in Buffalo. On Wednesday, the Flames play the Sabres in the first game since allegations of racism led to head coach Bill Peters being removed from the team pending an investigation. (The Associated Press)

Treliving confirmed to reporters after Wednesday's game that he had received the letter from Peters.

"We want to make sure we are doing a thorough job and looking under every stone, rock, and doing all the things that need to be done. So the letter tonight is part of this that we will obviously review," he said. "And I'm hopeful that we will have an update for you tomorrow."

Jimmy Vesey and Victor Olofsson scored for the Sabres who dropped to 2-8-3 in their past 13 — and after getting off to a 9-2-1 start to the season. Linus Ullmark made 26 saves.

The game was decided when Tkachuk beat a Sabres defender to the puck deep in Buffalo's zone and slid a pass behind the net to Lindholm.

WATCH | Flames use overtime to down Sabres:

Calgary came from behind in the third period to beat the Sabres 3-2 in the team's first game since allegations of racism were made against coach Bill Peters. 1:22

Lindholm came out untouched at the right post and circled atop the crease before scoring inside the opposite post.

"It's huge. Obviously, a lot of things going on right now. We can only affect what's going on out on the ice," Lindholm said. "We got the two points at the end, and that's all that matters."

Brodie's goal with 2:55 left in the opening period came in his second game two weeks after experiencing a frightening moment in practice when he began convulsing after falling to the ice. A series of neurological tests came back negative and the 29-year-old play-making defenceman was cleared to return in a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday.

Despite the win, the Flames continued their offensive struggles in scoring two or fewer goals in regulation for the ninth consecutive game. It's a stretch in which Calgary has been out-scored 30-12 and shut out three times.

Earlier Wednesday, the Flames did their best to distance themselves from the controversy swirling around Peters.

Tkachuk started his media availability Wednesday morning by stating he would only take questions about hockey ahead of the team's game against the Buffalo Sabres.

The other two Flames trotted in front of the team's backdrop were brief, at best, with their answers on a tumultuous stretch.

Former Hurricanes defenceman Michal Jordan, who now plays overseas, made the physical abuse allegation Tuesday on Twitter.

WATCH | A timeline of the Bill Peters saga:

Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters has come under fire after former player Akim Aliu accused the coach of using racial slurs towards him years ago. 2:11

"Never wish anything bad to the person but you get what you deserve Bill," Jordan said. "Kicking me and punching other player to the head during the game then pretending like nothing happened...couldn't believe my eyes."

That came on the heels of Monday's explosive tweets from another former NHLer, Akim Aliu, who wrote that Peters directed racial slurs towards him when both were with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League in 2009-10.

Born in Nigeria and raised in Ukraine and Canada, Aliu never referred to Peters by name, but used Calgary's airport code "YYC" when writing about the alleged coach who "dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn't like my choice of music."

CBC Sports has reached out to Aliu for comment.

While he confirmed Jordan's story, Brind'Amour said he was "proud" of the way those incidents were handled by both the players and management.

"It was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly," he said. "We've definitely moved past that."

Peters, meanwhile, remains employed by the Flames, but isn't currently with the team.

"It's not our focus," Flames centre Mikael Backlund said.

"Our job is to go out there and play," Tkachuk said of how the situation is impacting the players. "That's all [the team has] been stressing to us."

Backlund said he was surprised by the allegations against Peters, who helped Calgary to the NHL's second-best record last season with 107 points.

"Bill's been great to me and the group," Backlund said. "Nothing bad to say about Bill."

"My relationship's been good," Calgary centre Sean Monahan added. "No problems. Right now I want to talk about hockey, and that's it."

Sabres winger Jeff Skinner, who played for Peters with the Hurricanes and spoke before Brind'Amour commented in New York, chose his words carefully when asked about his former coach.

"He was fine with me," Skinner said of Peters. "Obviously, there's a lot of stuff going on. I'm sure Calgary will get to the bottom of it."

With files from The Canadian Press

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