BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tage Thompson leads the Sabres with 31 goals through 37 games, but “Goat Head” is quickly gaining ground. The blast from the past has now scored 30 in only five appearances.
Victor Olofsson buried his second goal of the night with 18 seconds left in overtime to cap the Sabres’ 6-5 comeback win against the Wild on Saturday night. In winning for the eighth time in nine games, Buffalo remained unbeaten this season wearing its throwback uniforms, having scored six goals in each of the five home victories.
Rasmus Dahlin added two goals and three assists for the first five-point game of his career, tying the franchise record for defenseman set by Phil Housley in 1989. Buffalo also got goals from Thompson, Dylan Cozens and Victor Olofsson, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 39 saves, including five in overtime, to win his sixth consecutive start.
A sellout crowd at KeyBank Center gave a standing ovation during a pregame “moment of celebration” for Bills player Damar Hamlin. More sustained cheers echoed when “LOVE FOR DAMAR” and an uplifting social media message from Hamlin were displayed on the scoreboard midway through the third period.
This was the first professional sporting event in Western New York since Monday night, when Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field during the Bills game in Cincinnati.
It’s the third straight win in which the Sabres lost a lead and came back to get the victory in overtime. “We’ve seen a couple times now, so we know we can do it,” Dahlin said. “How everyone reacts on the bench is just amazing. No one gets frustrated or stressed about it. We just keep going and we have so many skilled and talented players. If we get one chance we will score.”
Dahlin, an All-Star last season, scored the equalizer for the Sabres on a wrist shot from the right circle with 2:35 left in the third. It was Dahlin’s 12th goal of the season. The 22-year-old’s first assist Saturday put him past the 200-point threshold in his 312th NHL game, the second-fastest among Sabres defensemen after Housley (212). The 12th NHL D-man to record 200 points before turning 23, Dahlin assisted on Olofsson’s winner, raising his season point total to 44, second on the team behind Thompson.
“We never panic,” Olofsson said. “We’re very confident as a group and we just keep going. We knew we’ve got enough skill to create chances.”
Luukkonen extended the longest active win streak by NHL goaltenders. Of the 12 goalies who have won six or more games in a row this season, Luukkonen has the most saves (212). He is the first Sabres’ goalie to win six in a row since Carter Hutton in October, 2019.
Casey Mittelstadt set up Dahlin’s tying goal and finished with three assists for the second time this season. Mittelstadt has 33 points, two shy of his career-best set in 40 additional games in 2019.
Olofsson sniped his third OT winner of the season from the right circle on a feed from Peyton Krebs. It was Olofsson’s 15th goal of the season. He ended an eight-game scoring drought with the opening goal 7 minutes into the first period.
Buffalo scored three times in a 3:25 span of the second period. Thompson, who was recently selected to play in his first NHL All-Star Game, smacked his 31st goal on a power play early in the second. Dahlin used a slick toe-drag to score from the slot, and Cozens got his 13th goal, matching a career-high, on a power play to make it 4-2 with 6:05 left in the second.
“MVP” chants echoed from the upper sections of the packed arena after Thompson netted his 30th goal in his past 30 games.
“The guys on the bench loved it. Got a smile out of it,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “That’s engagement between the fans and our players, and they feel that and there’s nothing that makes them more proud to know that their work and what they’ve worked for and care about working for is seen and felt. So that was a pretty neat moment, I think for all of the guys on the bench to have an unequivocally know that OK, here’s 19,000 people engaging in the fact that Tage is having such an incredible season but he is where he is within his peers in the league. So that was a very neat moment for all of us.”
The Sabres continue their homestand Monday night against. The second of four games in six days was rescheduled from March when last month’s winter storm postponed a Sabres home date with the Lightning.
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.