Mar 24, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Marcus Foligno (82) is named first star of the game against the Minnesota Wild at the First Niagara Center. Buffalo defeats Minnesota 3 - 1. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
The Buffalo Sabres have not been in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for the last 96 days. That changed with a 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night as they overtook the idle 8th place Washington Capitals.
Buffalo got off to their typical slow start and this time the start actually had an effect on the scoreboard. Steven Kampfer buried a beautiful saucer pass from Kyle Brodziak at the six minute mark of the period. The whole play started on a Jordan Leopold turnover to Nick Johnson, which was the main story of the first period. The Sabres were outshot in the period 16-11, couldn't seem to stop turning the puck over, and it appeared that the Sabres could be heading for trouble after such a big win against the Rangers on Friday night.
The team settled themselves down and started strong in the second period and finally got on the scoreboard with a Thomas Vanek goal 1:12 into the period:
The goal gave Vanek his 24th of the season and his first goal since March 7th against the Carolina Hurricanes. After scoring his 19th goal of the season on January 6th, Vanek has only had five goals in the last 32 games. That would be the lone goal in the second period but it wasn't for the lack of chances the Sabres had in the second period. The team closed the gap in shots with a 17-5 period.
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The third period saw the Sabres finish the game off in style with two goals. The first came within the first two minutes on the power play. Marcus Foligno scored his sixth goal in nine games off a tip in on a Tyler Myers blast from the point. That last goal has Foligno joining elite company as only five other active players (Teemu Selanne, Evgeni Malkin, Devin Setoguchi, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alexander Ovechkin) have scored their first six goals in at most nine games:
The Sabres iced the game with a buzzer beating, empty net, power play goal from Cody Hodgson. The goal is Hodgson's third goal in as many games and sixth point in four games. The goals and points come after Hodgson was left off the scoresheet in his first ten games as a Sabre.
Ryan Miller got the start in net again, his eighth straight start and 56th game played. He made 24 saves on the night and has allowed two goals in his last three games. At the opposite end of the rink, Josh Harding made 34 saves on 36 shots for his first loss in the last five games.
The Buffalo Sabres will have a couple of days off to scoreboard watch before they head to Washington for the biggest game of the season. The Capitals will be taking on these Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon while the Winnipeg Jets will be taking on the Ottawa Senators in Winnipeg on Monday night.