Sharks end two-game skid with 3-2 win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Adin Hill made 37 saves, Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks ended a two-game skid with a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
Matt Neito and Timo Meier also scored for San Jose, playing the third game of a four-game trip. The short-handed Sharks turned in a strong defensive performance after allowing a total of 14 goals in consecutive losses and 28 in five games.
“We came together,” coach Bob Boughner said. “And I thought we battled hard.”
With captain Logan Couture missing his second game after being placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list, the Sharks were also without injured defensemen Erik Karlsson and Jacob Middleton, as well as goalie James Reimer.
“We’re playing short-handed right now, and we’re finding ways,” Boughner said. “We’re going through some injuries. We’re going through COVID, like everybody else. We haven’t had the luxury like a lot of teams of getting any postponed games, and waiting to get a free and healthy lineup.”
The Sharks raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening period, scoring all of their goals in a span of 5:03.
“We were ready to play,” Boughner said. “And we played one of our better first periods in a long time.”
Nieto scored his third of the season at 12:27 of the first, finishing a feed across the crease from Andrew Cogliano after Nick Bonino won a puck battle along the boards.
“It just started from a great forecheck,” Nieto said. “Bones wins a battle there, gets it to Cogs at the net-front, and he makes a really good pass to me in the slot.”
Meier snapped a long shot in off the far post 1:17 later for his 14th, and San Jose’s top line struck again when Hertl scored his team-leading 17th off the rush with 2:36 remaining in the period.
Jeff Skinner and Zemgus Girgensons scored for the Sabres, who fell to 2-8-4 in their last 14 games. Buffalo has lost six straight at home.
“I just think we need more urgency,” Skinner said. “We were sort of waiting for plays to develop, and as a result, we were kind of on our heels for a bit there.”
Skinner put the Sabres on the board 7:56 into the second period, scoring his 11th on a wrist shot from the right circle. Girgensons got his seventh off a rebound on a power play with 1:45 left in the game when the Sabres had a sixth skater on the ice after pulling goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (18 saves).
Hill stopped 21 of 22 shots he faced in the third period, including a sprawling save in the closing seconds.
“You could tell that he was zoned in and he had that swagger,” Boughner said. “And we fed off that.”
It was the first win in three starts over the past month for Hill, who spent a week on the COVID-19 protocol list.
“It was nice to see a lot of rubber, a lot of shots, get a feel for the puck in the net,” Hill said. “And obviously, getting the two points is huge. The standings, any time you look at them, they seem to get tighter and tighter. Teams aren’t losing that we want to lose, so we’ve got to keep winning. Hopefully we can start stringing some together here.”
DROPPING THE GLOVES
Buffalo’s John Hayden and San Jose’s Jonah Gadjovich fought less than three minutes into the game. Neither player gained the upper hand.
Sharks: Karlsson (upper body) and Middleton (upper body) were scratched after getting injured in Tuesday’s loss at Detroit. … Reimer (lower body) was held out for injury maintenance. He started each of the first two games on the Sharks’ trip but was pulled from both, having allowed 10 goals over three periods. … D Mario Ferraro returned from missing three games while on the COVID-19 protocol list.
Sabres: Forwards Dylan Cozens, Mark Jankowski and Girgensons were activated after clearing COVID-19 protocols. They replaced Alex Tuch, Anders Bjork and Peyton Krebs, who were added to the protocol list Tuesday. … F Ryan MacInnis made his Sabres debut after getting called up from the minors and activated from the taxi squad. … D Colin Miller returned after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. … D Robert Hagg (lower body) skated Thursday for the first time since being injured on Dec. 14.
Sharks: Close out road trip at Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Sabres: Host Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.