Sabres end streak with win over Oilers
BUFFALO, N.Y. — With their backs against the wall thanks to a seven-game losing streak, the Buffalo Sabres finally found their game.
Jacob Josefson, Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo scored, and Robin Lehner made 29 saves to lead the Sabres to a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. It was one of Buffalo’s most complete efforts of the season, resulting in its first win in almost three weeks.
“I thought it was a great response,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “This team’s been through a lot in the short past here. There’s been a lot of challenges and a lot of conversations. It was time to put things into action. I thought everybody played well. I can’t really think of anybody that didn’t contribute and that’s what we need as a team.”
Lehner came within 19 of recording his second shutout of the season for Buffalo (6-13-4).
Josefson opened the scoring with 5:44 remaining in the second. After some good work by Josefson down low, Okposo found Josefson in the left circle for a one-timer into the top of the net. It was Josefson’s first goal as a Sabre; he has points (one goal, one assist) in consecutive games after missing 15 games with a lower-body injury.
Eichel made it 2-0 43 seconds into the third period. Skating through the right circle, Eichel picked up his seventh goal of the season on a shot to the short side.
Okposo added an empty-net goal with 50 seconds remaining.
“It’s one game, so obviously need to carry this,” Eichel said. “I think seeing the way we could play tonight, more than anything it should be a bit of a boost to everyone in the room, a little confidence. When we play the right way, when we do the right things, it’s rewarding. Just got to try to find that consistency.”
Laurent Brossoit made 28 saves for Edmonton (8-13-2). Yohann Auvitu had Edmonton’s lone goal, ending Lehner’s shutout with 19 seconds remaining.
“We were just sloppy,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “It just felt like we were never really in sync, anyone at any time. Those little passes that are usually easy to make we just didn’t complete them.”
The Oilers remain frustratingly inconsistent as a team. Following a three-game losing streak, Edmonton defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a 6-2 victory on Wednesday before a listless effort against Buffalo.
“If our group thinks that’s enough then we’re on the short end,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. “I think our guys have the want to do it. Can we get it done at the pace that we’re executing at? We have to make things happen a lot faster, in my opinion, defensively and offensively.”
Buffalo got a boost on the back end with the return of defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen returned to the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. The defenseman had an assist on Buffalo’s second goal of the evening.
“I felt great,” Ristolainen said. “I never really got to rest like this before and I didn’t like it but I kind of felt really good and my legs were fresh so that was a good start.”
Lehner’s best stop came 5:57 into the third on a quick shot by defenseman Matt Benning from the slot. He also had a key stop on Jesse Puljujarvi after Puljujarvi came in all alone with 5:52 remaining.
The Sabres thought they opened the scoring 8:31 into the second period but had an apparent goal disallowed. Evander Kane poked the puck in the net after several attempts, but replay confirmed that the referee blew his whistle before the puck entered the net.
Buffalo has a quick turnaround with a road game against the struggling Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
“It’s just nice to get a win and play a complete game,” Okposo said. “That’s how we’ve got to play. ... We’ll take how we play and hopefully carry it into tomorrow because that team’s going to be hungry.”
NOTES: D Josh Gorges, C Seth Griffith and LW Matt Moulson were scratched for the Sabres. ... RW Iiro Pakarinen and D Oscar Klefbom were scratched for the Oilers. ... D Zach Bogosian remains on injured reserve and has missed 23 games for the Sabres. ... Sabres LW Benoit Pouliot played for the Oilers from 2014-17, posting 84 points in 180 games. ... Oilers RW Zack Kassian was originally drafted by the Sabres in the first round of the 2009 draft. ... This was the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. The second and final meeting takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 23 in Edmonton.