Wild hand Sabres seventh straight loss
BUFFALO, N.Y. — With a critical stretch of the schedule looming, the Minnesota Wild took care of business Wednesday night.
Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund scored two goals apiece to lead the Wild to a 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. It was a sloppy game with defensive breakdowns by both teams.
“It was an ugly game on both sides but I think we persevered,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought this was an important game for us to win considering how many games we’ve got against the Central Division coming up and how many teams are playing and going to gain points tonight. We don’t want to get too far behind the loop.”
Tyler Ennis also scored for the Wild (10-8-3). Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves.
Minnesota has a critical weekend coming up with three games in four days against divisional opponents — Colorado, St. Louis and Winnipeg — following Thanksgiving.
“We all know we can play better,” Granlund said. “At the same time, we got the win and that’s all we need right now. These kinds of games happen and we just got to move on and get ready for the next one.”
Jordan Nolan had two goals for the Sabres (5-13-4), who have lost seven games in a row (0-5-2). Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart also scored.
“I think we just have to start holding guys accountable, start being honest with ourselves and our teammates,” Nolan said. “This team hasn’t been too successful the years and it needs to change. It’s going to be a long, long season and a few seasons to come if that’s the way it is.”
Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson allowed three goals on 13 shots and was replaced by Robin Lehner to open the second period. Lehner made 17 saves.
“Three goals in the first period with how things are going, it’s obviously not good enough,” Johnson said. “We’re not in a situation where we can let in three goals in a game, let alone a period. I want them all back, to be honest.”
Eichel opened the scoring 6:55 into the game, swiping the puck into the net from a hard angle for his sixth goal of the season.
The Wild quickly took control from there, scoring three goals in the second, though the Sabres would mount multiple comebacks.
Ennis, a former Sabre, evened the score at 8:59 of the first on a terrific goal. Ennis spun inside the left circle and placed a backhand shot along the ice through Johnson’s legs for his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s funny how it all works out,” Ennis said. “I’ve had so many chances, breakaways, posts the last little while here and just a shot from a tough angle goes in.”
Granlund made it 2-1 on a two-on-one opportunity with 7:32 left in the first. Granlund kept the puck and buried a high shot to the blocker side for his fourth goal of the season.
Niederreiter made it 3-1 with 5:32 left in the first. Niederreiter redirected Mikko Koivu’s shot from the point for his seventh goal of the year.
Nolan cut Minnesota’s lead to 3-2 at 2:01 of the second on his first goal as a Sabre.
Niederreiter picked up his second of the night 7:57 into the second on a tap-in on a pass from Eric Staal behind the Buffalo net.
Granlund scored his second of the game with 4:04 left in the second on a deflection from close range.
Reinhart made it 5-3 on a redirection with 1:35 left in the second. Nolan cut Minnesota’s lead to one with 6:05 remaining, whipping the puck into the net from outside the right circle.
Buffalo’s best chance to even the score came on a shot by Kyle Okposo with 33 seconds remaining, which was stopped by Dubnyk.
NOTES: D Casey Nelson, C Seth Griffith and LW Matt Moulson were scratched for the Sabres. D Zach Bogosian (lower body, 22 games) and D Rasmus Ristolainen (upper body, nine games) remain on injured reserve for Buffalo. ... D Kyle Quincey was scratched for the Wild. ... Sabres D Marco Scandella was a second-round draft pick of the Wild in 2008 and played in 373 games for Minnesota from 2010-17. ... This was the first of two meetings this season. The second takes place Jan. 4 in Minnesota.