BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres surged out of a three-game slump with a 5-3 win Saturday night in Nashville to reach the midway point of the season with a 21-18-2 record.
Compiling 44 standings points through 41 games, this is the Sabres’ second-highest tally at midseason during their NHL-record postseason drought. The 2018-19 team had 50 points before collapsing in the end stages of Phil Housley’s coaching tenure. On three other occasions over the past dozen years (’20, ’17, ’12), the Sabres a .500 point percentage after 41 games.
Buffalo will need to accelerate its 88-point pace to make the playoffs. Washington qualified for the final wild card spot with 100 points this season. The Sabres are 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, behind the Penguins pacing for 94 points, and the Islanders around 91. The Sabres are tied with the 10th-place Panthers, the team they host Monday, after losing the first meeting of the season at home.
The Sabres remained the NHL’s highest-scoring team at 3.85 goals per game after netting as many against the Predators as they had during a three-game skid.
Rookie winger Jack Quinn had a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup after being scratched twice this week. Jeff Skinner, Dylan Cozens, Victor Olofsson and Kyle Okposo also scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 38 saves for his seventh victory in eight starts.
“I think our guys felt and knew when they were playing the right way, they had some control over the game,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “Things were working well for them, it’s just getting back to that.”
Buffalo took the lead for good when Okposo scored a shorthanded goal at 6:43 of the third on a between the legs deflection.
“That’s where the puck was, so that’s what needed to happen,” Okposo said. “That’s how I was going to get the puck into the net.”
Skinner scored the game’s first goal at 11:37 of the opening period. The goal snapped a seven-game goalless stretch for Skinner, his longest of the season.
Cozen’s goal at 2:05 of the second was his 14th of the season, establishing a new career high in goals for the center. He scored 13 goals in 79 games played in the 2021-22 season for the Sabres.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.