Three weeks ago, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t buy a break. Now they can’t seem to find a way to lose.
Derek Roy scored the tying goal with 39 seconds left in the game, and Nathan Gerbe fired the game-deciding goal, as the Sabres edged the Dallas Stars 3-2 in a shootout at First Niagara Center. It was the second time in the past three games where the Sabres won a game when they entered the third period trailing the opposition.
The Sabres are now 5-0-1 in their past six games, matching their longest point streak since ending last season on a 5-0-1 run. The shootout win also extended Buffalo’s home point streak to 6-0-5, their longest streak since going 9-0-3 from Dec. 9/09 to Jan. 29/10. Buffalo hasn’t lost a home game in regulation since December 10.
“I thought as the game went on we kept turning it up, playing better and we just played until the last second. In the end, we deserved two points,” said Thomas Vanek. “Obviously, that gave us a lot of confidence that we're within one with a lot of time left. It took until the last minute, but we never stopped believing. This game is all about confidence. Right now, the guys are feeling good about themselves. Like tonight, we were down 2-0, we just kept playing, playing our system, playing it hard. We got back into it.”
Vanek returned to the Sabres lineup after missing three games with an upper body injury suffered January 31 in Montreal, and he had an immediate impact. Vanek scored Buffalo’s first goal of the game in the third period, giving him 20 on the season – and a seventh-straight 20-goal season. It was also Buffalo’s first power play goal since January 21 in St. Louis, snapping an 0-for-14 drought with the man advantage.
It turned out that Vanek was just the power play spark that Lindy Ruff had hoped he would be.
“He had a couple good opportunities, great deflection on the power play goal,” said Ruff. “I said this morning I think he can be instant help on the power play. It just seems when he does come back, he gets himself on the scoresheet. He'll get better from playing tonight and he'll be better tomorrow night.”
The shootout loss was the first blemish on the Stars’ record, as they entered the game with a perfect mark of 16-0-0 when leading after two periods. It also extended Dallas’ futility in Buffalo, as they have not won a game here since October 7, 1997 – their longest span of time between wins in any NHL city.
Buffalo gets right back at it, hosting Tampa Bay on Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m.
DAL 1-0: Ryder tips Goligoski's point shot for his 20th of the season. (17:53) …Shots: DAL-10, BUF-7
No scoring… Shots: DAL-12, BUF-9
DAL 2-0: Vincour drives the slot and one times Jamie Benn's pass from behind the net. (4:17) … DAL 2-1: Vanek parks himself in front of Lehtonen, and deftly redirects Pominville’s pass from the right boards. (5:07, PP)… 2-2: With Miller off for the extra attacker, Roy taps in the bouncing rebound from Myers' point shot (19:21)… Shots: BUF-13, DAL-3
Vanek had the best chance in overtime, but his shot with one second left in the extra period hit Lehtonen’s right pad just on the edge of the goalline …Shots: BUF-3, DAL-1
SABRES NOTES: The Sabres are now 9-7-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets. They head into Saturday with a record of 5-6-3 in the second game... Cody McCormick left the game in the second period with an upper body injury, and did not return. Lindy Ruff did not have an update on his condition after the game …. Luke Adam (healthy) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches. This was the second game that Adam has missed this season, while Gragnani has been a healthy scratch for the past four games.