BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A 3-2 shootout loss Saturday night at Minnesota snapped the Sabres’ five-game win streak. But securing another point in the standings continued a remarkable run on the road for the NHL’s youngest team.
Going 3-0-1 on a four-game trip that included wins at Dallas, St. Louis and Winnipeg, the Sabres have earned points in seven consecutive away games for the first time in 12 years. Buffalo is an NHL-best 12-2-2 on the road since Nov. 22, and 15-7-2 on the season for a visiting point percentage (.667) that ranks eighth in the league. That paces ahead of the franchise-best road record (21-10-9) from Buffalo’s 1974-75 season that ended in the Stanley Cup finals.
With 56 standings points through 49 games, Buffalo is one behind Pittsburgh and two back of Washington in the race for two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Sabres’ points percentage (.571) ranks eighth in the conference, with two games in hand on the Capitals.
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Coming home from the season’s second-longest road trip, the Sabres concluded a stretch of 17 games in 31 days. They play once over the next 12 days, hosting the Hurricanes on Wednesday night in the final game before the NHL All-Star break.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 33 shots against the Wild, bringing his record to 13-5-2 this season, with 30-plus saves in five of his past eight starts. Rookie Jack Quinn and Zemgus Girgensons scored in regulation, as Buffalo went up by one twice in the first two periods, only to see Minnesota quickly respond each time.
“It’s a long trip we’re on now,” Girgensons said. “They’re not easy. And especially at the end of it, it’s hard to push it. I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Rasmus Dahlin thought he gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead, but his rebound crossed the goal line less than a second after the middle period expired.
“I thought it was in,” Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “The horn was a little bit delayed, right? It was after the puck went in, so I was like, ‘Ahh.’ Extra emotions, right? Like, ‘Ahh.’ Then, ‘Yay.’ That was good.”
Fleury stopped 29 shots for the Wild, including a sprawling save to thwart Tage Thompson on a wraparound try with about eight minutes left in regulation. He also made a pair of stops about four minutes later with Buffalo buzzing in the Wild’s end.
Thompson scored in the shootout for Buffalo, but Jack Quinn was stopped by Fleury, and Gaudreau secured the win for Minnesota.
The Sabres were without two key players. Dahlin’s blue-line parter Mattias Samuelsson took part in the morning skate, but missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Second-line center Dylan Cozens, fifth on the team with 17 goals and 43 points, missed his first game with an undisclosed injury sustained when got butt-ended by a stick in the third period at Winnipeg. Both were game-time decisions. Rasmus Asplund and Kale Clague took their spots.
Early in the first, Quinn took advantage of a turnover by Minnesota and beat Fleury with a wrister from the slot, but Joel Eriksson Ek converted a feed from Kirill Kaprizov 73 seconds later on the power play.
Left open at the back post, Girgensons converted a pass from Kyle Okposo midway through the second period. But less than three minutes later, Freddy Gaudreau found Jared Spurgeon coming low in the left circle and delivered a perfect feed for an easy redirect.
“Not what we wanted tonight, but to get seven out of eight points is a pretty good job by that group,” coach Don Granato said.
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.