Center Cory Conacher stepped up and scored twice to lead the Sabres to a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night at Rexall Place. The victory snapped a seven-game skid, keeping the Sabres from setting a franchise record for consecutive regulation losses.
Stafford, a right wing, scored the other for the Sabres (20-42-8). Left wing Taylor Hall had the lone goal for the Oilers (25-37-9).
"It's my first win [with Buffalo] and it's definitely nice," Conacher said. "I think we deserved that one. We kept it pretty simple for the most part. We ran into a bit of penalty trouble, but our PK came up huge."
Conacher, claimed off waivers by Buffalo from the Ottawa Senators on March 5, had four goals all season going into the game. He had not scored since Dec. 28.
"It was refreshing," Conacher said of his two-goal night. "I've already had to get the monkey off my back once before this year, and it feels like it came off again [Thursday]. Maybe this was the game I needed to open the floodgates a bit. The most important part was getting the win, though."
Goaltender Matt Hackett, making his first NHL start of the season after being called up Monday on an emergency basis due to injuries, stopped 35 shots for the Sabres. Ben Scrivens made 33 saves for the Oilers, who had their two-game winning streak snapped.
"This league is full of parity, and there are no easy games for sure," Hall said. "Whenever when you get more power plays than another team, that means that you're definitely battling. I don't think we took them lightly, we can't afford to do that here. We're in 29th place. If we had done that, I'd let you know."
"I think it came down to, we let them hang around when we could have put it away and that's what happens when you let teams hang around," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "They were opportunists on a couple of goals and we couldn't get back into it."
Hall opened the scoring on the power play at 17:48 of the first period when he fired a one-timer through Hackett off defenseman Justin Schultz's setup.
Before Hall's goal, the Oilers had hit the post twice on separate power-play opportunities.
"With the power-play opportunities that we had, we have to make sure we stay committed and find a way to capitalize on our chances and we didn't do that," Oilers right wing Ryan Smyth said. "They just hung around, played a simple road game and found a way to get the two points.
"I don't feel that we let off, I think that they raised their game and we didn't capitalize on our chances. They just played a simple road game and you just have to make sure you're executing and doing the simple things. We maybe got away from that a little bit, but I thought we had most of the possession in their zone."
Conacher tied the game 9:16 into the second period, also on the power play, when he tipped defenseman Jamie McBain's point shot past Scrivens. The goal was Buffalo's first not scored by Stafford or Ennis, his regular center, in its past six games. The two had combined to score the Sabres' previous six goals.
"It was huge," Stafford said of the win. "The way that this year has gone and the challenges we have gone through, we will take any win at this point, regardless of who it is against. That was one of our more complete efforts. We had some discipline issues, but had a great PK. We also had more than one goal, which is big.
"Getting a 3-1 lead, I'm not sure I can remember the last time we had a comfortable lead like that where we could lock in our system and take over the game. That was a good win for us."
Conacher put the Sabres ahead to stay when he scored his second of the game at 1:09 of the third period. Conacher redirected a Torrey Mitchell shot over Scrivens' shoulder after an Edmonton turnover along the boards.
Stafford made it 3-1 at 4:44 when he took a pass from Ennis in front and lifted a shot over a fallen Scrivens.
"It is good to finally play a half-decent game," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "When you lose, you get what you deserve, and we have been getting what we deserved. We weren't playing very well, but [Thursday] we got what we deserved."
The Sabres continue their season-long, five-game road trip Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers play the Calgary Flames on Saturday night in the third of a six-game homestand.