Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, head coach Phil Housley wanted to break up the “Big Three” and scrambled his special teams units in the hopes of a providing a spark.
Mission accomplished — at least for one night — for a team looking to keep pace in the wild card race.
Sam Reinhart scored the lone shootout goal and Linus Ullmark turned away Zach Parise to help the Sabres picked up two points with a 5-4 shootout win over the Wild.
“I feel fantastic,” Ullmark said after the game. After stopping Parise, the netminder was slow getting up before heading straight to the locker room after the game.
“A win, 5-4, I feel absolutley awesome,” he continued. “I have no clue what happened. I made the save.”
For the better part of two periods, the Sabres seemded to be in control against the Wild, receiving power play goals from Evan Rodrigues and Rasmus Dahlin to go along with an even strength tally from CJ Smith, who was recently called up, as Buffalo took a 3-1 lead in the second period.
Buffalo, which entered Tuesday’s contest 2-for-25 in their last 10 games on the power play, finished 2-for-2.
“It’s good for them. It’s good for their confidence,” Housley said of the Sabres’ special teams “They’ve had good looks they haven’t gotten the results, It’s good for them, for their confidence.”
However, after Dahlin sent home Buffalo’s third goal of the night, as it’s happened all too often this season, the Sabres allowed their oppoenent to answer — and answer quickly.
Minnesota pulled within 3-2 a little more than two minutes later courtesy of Jared Spurgeon’s wrap around goal.
Four minutes later, Charlie Coyle tied the game, tapping in a loose puck in the crease.
“I liked the way they stuck together,” Housley said after the game. “It was getting physical out there and you could see the switch turn. I liked the way they responded and liked the way they stuck together.”
Reinhart would put the Sabres back out front lead early in the third period, sending a beautiful cross ice feed past the pad of Devan Dubynk to give Buffalo a 4-3 lead, before the Wild tied the game with an extra attack late in regulation.
“It’s huge. We needed those points. Also, we have to be stronger in the D-zone,” Dahlin said. “We can’t let them into the game. We had a 3-1 lead and we just have to keep going and play our game and not let them in.”
“Special teams, that got going tonight. So, that was a huge positive,” Reinhart added. “That was a positive tonight. It was nice to get our confidence on that early. It would have been nice to keep it a little tighter at the end but Linus made some great saves for us and it was nice to get that one out.”
Buffalo will now look to accomplish something they haven’t since December: Win two straight games when they host the Hurricanes on Thursday.