Ville Leino had no idea what was going to happen when Ted Nolan called his name to take part in the rollicking shootout. The Sabres’ coach did.

“I mentioned to John Scott, ‘Watch the crowd go crazy on this one,’ ” Nolan said with a smile.

Indeed, the folks in First Niagara Center raised their voices, arms and bodies Tuesday night when Leino hopped over the boards as Buffalo’s ninth shooter in the breakaway challenge against New Jersey. Everyone in the building was well-aware Leino hadn’t scored this season, which has made him the most-maligned player on the last-place team.

Despite – or, more likely, because of – the forgettable times, the fans jumped at the chance to cheer and applaud Leino’s time in the spotlight.

“I didn’t know if they were going to boo or cheer, so I was pretty happy about that,” said Leino, who scored to join goaltender Nathan Lieuwen in delivering a 3-2 win. “It was actually pretty awesome. I just wanted to score for them, and they gave me a little extra effort there.”

Leino is still stuck on zero goals in 53 games because shootout winners count only toward the team total, but even a real tally won’t elicit the same emotion that roared through downtown Tuesday.

“I miss a little bit of that feeling when you get that,” Leino said. “Obviously, we haven’t been in playoffs for a while or been winning that much, so it’s tough. It’s tough times, but those moments you get a little energy, extra effort to want to win it, put it in.”

The victory was the first in the NHL for Lieuwen, a 22-year-old rookie who made 33 saves during the game and seven in the shootout.