Sharks top Sabres for first win of season
SAN JOSE, Calif. — It turns out a little hard practice for the San Jose Sharks was the right recipe for victory.
And it didn’t hurt that the San Jose Sharks were playing a winless Buffalo Sabres team, either.
Timo Meier, Chris Tierney and Tomas Hertl all scored for the first time this season and goaltender Martin Jones made 23 saves as San Jose (1-2-0) won for the first time, 3-2, to drop Buffalo to 0-3-1.
“We’ve got to just figure a way to be sick of losing,” Sabres center Jack Eichel said. “I know I’m sick of losing. There’s a lot of guys who are sick of losing.”
The Sharks, who lost their first two games before going idle for four nights, were put through the practice paces Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before hitting the ice with a number of lineup changes and more determined attitude Thursday night at SAP Center.
“I’m for sure happy for two points because it was big for us,” Hertl said. “We played great — all four lines — and Jones was good. We had a lot of chances after a big forecheck. This is how we have to play now.”
Tied 2-2 late in the second period, Meier scored his first goal of the season at 14:30 to give the Sharks their third and final lead of the night. Meier jumped on a loose puck Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen turned over in front of goalie Robin Lehner, who had just stopped a screen shot off the stick of San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi.
“We want to build off that,” Meier said. “We had a good week of practice. I think it’s just about our mindset and sticking to our identity. We have to go out every night and compete hard.”
Buffalo tied it 2-2 at 6:50 earlier in the middle period when Tim Heed got caught and allowed the Sabres to break in 2-on-1. Jack Eichel managed to thread a pass through Brenden Dillon and Jason Pominville tapped in his second goal of the night.
San Jose managed to score the initial goal of a game for the first time this season early in the first period. With Marco Scandella off for slashing Logan Couture 36 seconds after the opening faceoff, the San Jose power play went to work.
Kevin Labanc spotted Hertl in good position on the far post and, from the right point, let go with a shot-pass that Hertl only had to redirect past Lehner at 2:15 for his first goal of the season to convert the power play.
“This is awful, it’s not fun,” Lehner said. “I had a guy in front of me the whole game.”
Labanc was instrumental on the power play, moving the puck with quick decisions and keeping the Buffalo penalty killers off balance.
Buffalo struck at 12:26 to tie the game 1-1 as Pominville scored his first of the contest as a trailer. The Sabres broke into the San Jose zone 2-on-2. Dillon got caught at center, and found himself out of position to locate Pominville, who beat Jones clean from the slot.
The Sharks had an answer at 15:11 as Donskoi dished a no-look back pass from behind the Buffalo goal to Tierney, who potted his first goal of the season as Lehner got caught anticipating the puck coming out on the other side.
“I’ve seen him do it a couple times in practice so I had a feeling something tricky was coming when he gets that much time with the puck behind the net,” Tierney said. “I just put my stick down.”
The Sabres don’t have the luxury of much practice time to work things out before playing back-to-back in Los Angeles and Anaheim on the weekend before winding up the four-game Western trek in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
“There’s a difference between playing hard and playing hard and smart,” Eichel said. “We’ve got to execute our game all the way through the lineup, myself included.”
NOTES: With four days off after losing their first two, the Sharks made three lineup changes, and only one was necessitated by injury. With D Paul Martin on injured reserve with a bum ankle, D Joakim Ryan was promoted from the AHL and made his NHL debut alongside D Brent Burns. D Tim Heed and C Ryan Carpenter made their season debut as D Dylan DeMelo and RW Joel Ward came out of the lineup to join LW Barclay Goodrow as healthy scratches. ... The Sabres shuffled lines instead of changing personnel, although D Josh Gorges, a former Shark, made his season debut. LW Evander Kane dropped from the first to the second line, C Ryan O’Reilly shifted from the second to the third line and LW Zemgus Girgensons shifted from the third to the first line. ... LW Matt Moulson, D Zach Bogosian and D Viktor Antipin were healthy scratches for Buffalo.