The Buffalo Sabres have a long way to go if they want to get back in the thick of an Eastern conference playoff race, but Tuesday night was an excellent start. Buffalo put the embarrassment of a four goal shellacking at Dallas Saturday behind them by defeating the Washington Capitals, 3-1 at the Keybank Center in front of a home crowd desperate to see good hockey.
That’s what they got. Benoit Pouliot continued his emergence with the club by scoring what would be the game-winning goal early in the third period by going nearly end to end before firing a shot that beat Phillip Grubauer. Pouliot is up to five goals on the season and they’ve all come in the last seven games.
The other two Buffalo goals came via Evander Kane, including the clincher with just 20 seconds left in regulation. Kane’s already up to nine goals through the first 15 games.
Robin Lehner had 24 saves in net.
MVP: Don’t look now but Kane is on pace for 49 goals this season. Jason Botterill is going to have a very interesting decision to make over the next few months on if the Sabres should sign him to an extension or trade him. A free agent after this season, Kane is indisputably playing his himself into a monster extension here or contract elsewhere. The problem is Botterill may have to make multiple moves to accommodate a Kane extension to make it work with the salary cap. Of course, if they’re not in a playoff race the Sabres could trade Kane near the trade deadline as a rental and likely fetch a nice return, but it’s almost unfathomable to deal Kane if he’s playing at anything close to the level he is now.
LVP: Seth Griffith had 9:54 in ice time and was completely blanked on the stat sheet, literally. It’s relatively hard to play an entire game without registering a shot on net or at least a hit. He’s got to be close to ending up in Rochester.
BIG PICTURE: The Sabres sit at 5-8-2 this season and with 12 points they’re still second-last in the conference, five points out of a wild card spot with six teams ahead of them. To put it generously there’s a long way to go. However, they are 5-4-1 after their 0-4-1 disastrous start and showing signs of life. Pouliot has found a home on the Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo line to give the team two scoring forward lines. They desperately need to get more from the bottom six. The defense is all kinds of banged up and had three regulars out. All things considered the unit played very well against Washington.
UP NEXT: Buffalo is getting ready for a back to back over the weekend, facing Florida at home Friday night before traveling to Montreal on Saturday.