The Sabres prevailed 2-1 in a hard-fought battle against the Minnesota Wild to extend their winning streak to three games. Minnesota fought to the bitter end, pulling their goalie with just over two minutes remaining and kept the puck in the Sabres’ zone for the remainder of the contest. Robin Lehner stayed strong through the onslaught, posting 27 saves on 28 shots.
The team came out fast and aggressive, taking an early lead on an unassisted goal by Ryan O’Reilly. The game was an extremely physical affair as the two teams combined for 43 hits throughout the contest, with bodies hitting the ice left and right. The Sabres handily out-played the Wild in the first 20 minutes, and went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
The second period was all Minnesota, as Robin Lehner was called upon to bail the Sabres’ defense out of a few jams early on. With just under three minutes remaining in the second period, Mikael Granlund tied the game for Minnesota after a dominant period, where the Wild outshot the Sabres 15-7. Part of the defensive struggles in the second period may have had something to do with Zach Bogosian exiting the game with an injury. He did not return to the contest.
The third period was very telling of where this team stands mentally as they continue to move on from their early season struggles. With 6:26 remaining in the third, Sabres’ captain Brian Gionta took advantage of a wide open lane to the net on a 2-on-1 and sent an excellent pass to Johan Larsson in front who scored the game-winning goal. Larsson was in excellent position to deflect home the airborne pass by Gionta.
The team continued to play tough throughout the remainder of the period, not allowing many opportunities until Minnesota pulled their goaltender late in the game. The key lied in the fact that the Sabres remained aggressive. They did not sit back and play conservatively when they took the lead. The team continued to push play and dictate the overall pace.
This is the type of game the Sabres need to start winning on a consistent basis. They kept up with a very physical and fast skating Minnesota team, who appear to be one of the contenders in the West early on with a 6-3-1 record. The Sabres have played a complete 60 minute game in each of their last three contests since being blanked 4-0 by this same Wild team just five days ago at the KeyBank Center; a performance that drew raucous jeers from the home crowd.
Credit to the Sabres for taking what they saw from the Wild last game and matching their intensity tonight, securing two well deserved points.
The Sabres improve to 4-3-2 on the young season and have climbed to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The team that took the ice tonight looks significantly better than the downtrodden unit that started the season with one win in their first six games. The Sabres are playing with confidence despite still missing two of their top six forwards in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane.
Now the Sabres must continue this success at home, where they have only scored four goals in three games so far this season. They’ll get their chance to turn the tides as they take on the rival Maple Leafs on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Buffalo.