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Sabres come back to win fifth straight game over Minnesota

Ullmark and defense shine in another close win

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

You’d think that Buffalo’s luck would have tailed off a bit after 20 games, but as it turns out, it would appear that the hockey gods are finally smiling down on Buffalo.

The Sabres have emerged with four points in back-to-back wins on the road this weekend, coming from behind to do so in both matchups. By the end of the night on Saturday, Buffalo had secured fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and sat sixth in overall league standings.

It’s a huge step forward for a team that has essentially been the laughing stock of the NHL over the last five seasons. The team crossed the coin-flip threshold for playoff probability this week, breaching a higher-than 50 percent probability for the playoffs. Efforts like the one in Saturday’s victory have been the defining characteristic of the young team for the first quarter of the season.

Minnesota opened the scoring when Zach Parise beat Linus Ullmark at the 4:00 mark of the first period. Defender Matt Dumba scored his eighth of the season at 7:45 to give the Wild a 2-0 lead. Despite the two goals, rookie Linus Ullmark had a great game in net, and the first set the tone for what was undoubtedly the most important performance of the game.

Buffalo began to climb back in with just over five minutes left in the first period when Jake McCabe netted his second of the year. The second period was relatively uneventful, with Minnesota continuing to pressure Buffalo, and Ullmark rising to the occasion.

Things got interesting with 7:02 remaining in the game, when Rasmus Dahlin scored on a scrambled play in front of a sprawled Devan Dubnyk. Dahlin crashed from his point position to catch a loose puck that had eluded everyone on the right side of the net. He deftly backhanded the game tying goal into the gaping maw of the cage.

In what has become usual fare for the Sabres, the team wasn’t done, and they certainly weren’t leaving Minnesota without the extra point. With 90 seconds left in the contest, Jason Pominville broke a five-game goalless streak to put the Sabres ahead for good.

The win marks the team’s fifth straight and continues to fuel the fiery passion of the fans that has been reunited by the Sabres’ early success. Buffalo won’t have long to rest on their laurels; they will travel to Pittsburgh for another set of three games in four nights. The Penguins’ pendulum has swung the opposite direction this year and the team is struggling to find cohesiveness, but the Sabres cannot look past this team that is still full of dangerous weapons.

Final: Sabres 3, Wild 2

Shots on goal: Wild 39 | Sabres 29

Sabres goals: Jake McCabe (2), Rasmus Dahlin (2), Jason Pominville (9)

Wild goals: Zach Parise (8), Matt Dumba (8)

Three stars of the game

  1. Linus Ullmark (37 saves on 39 shots)
  2. Rasmus Dahlin (1 goal, 1 assist)
  3. Jake McCabe (1 goal, 1 assist)