The Sharks came into the game with a three-game losing streak, a skid in which they had allowed 14 goals.
Something had to give. And it finally did early in the third period of a scoreless game when Cody Hodgson and Nicolas Deslauriers scored back-to-back goals a little more than two minutes apart to lift Buffalo to a 2-1 victory, its second win of the season.
Neither goal was a thing of beauty, but Sabres coach Ted Nolan said he's not worried about style points.
"We're a tough team," Nolan said. "If we're going to win any games, that's the way we're going to have to win them. It's going to be low-scoring games; it's going to take some ugly goals. It's going to hit somebody and bounce. You might be able to tap it in, like Deslauriers' goal. It was a floater to the net, just became available in front of the net. We're not going to be a highlight-reel type of team with goals that you watch afterwards. It's going to be goals like that."
Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who play the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night at Honda Center.
"We shouldn't lose a game like that," San Jose center Logan Couture said. "We have a lot to figure out right now. I think it's good for us to have a quick turnaround.
Buffalo has defeated San Jose seven straight times, the most consecutive wins against the Sharks in Sabres history. It was also Buffalo’s fourth straight win in San Jose, another best for the Sabres in the all-time series.
The Sabres opened their four-game road trip with a 4-1 loss to the Ducks and a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings before beating the Sharks.
"I think it's important … to know that we can work hard and compete with any team in the League. That's a good team,” Hodgson said of the Sharks. “The last two games have been good teams. We've been in the game. It was just nice to pull it out."
Hodgson gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 3:43 of the third period, and Deslauriers scored 2:14 later to put the Sabres ahead 2-0.
Drew Stafford had the primary assist on Hodgson's goal. He controlled the puck behind San Jose's net and sent a centering pass that bounced off Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan's skate. The puck bounced back toward the net to Hodgson, who knocked it into a wide-open net past Stalock for his first goal of the season.
Deslauriers scored his first goal of the season at 5:57 on a rebound after getting behind Hannan. Stalock stopped Cody McCormick's shot, but he couldn't control the puck, and Deslauriers made him pay.
"It's just a bonus that I went to the net and it just popped right there," Deslauriers said. "I just tapped it in. That's the mentality we have to have all game, especially for our line."
Sabres rookie Sam Reinhart earned an assist on Deslauriers' goal for his first NHL point.
Burns quickly answered with an unassisted goal, a blast from well above the left circle through traffic at 6:10, cutting Buffalo's lead to 2-1. Forward Tommy Wingels provided a good screen in front of Neuvirth, and Burns took advantage, scoring his second goal.
Burns had a chance to score again with 1:38 left in the third when he ripped a shot through traffic from the right circle, but Neuvirth made a glove save. The Sharks pulled Stalock at that point, but they couldn't get the puck past Neuvirth to force overtime.
The Sharks went 0-2 on their homestand; they also lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Thursday.
"We just played with them instead of putting our foot on the gas, and that's disappointing," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We've had two struggling teams come in and we don't put our foot to the gas pedal until we're down. That's not a good thing for our hockey club."
Neuvirth gave himself a pep talk after allowing Burns' goal.
"After that goal I gave up, I told myself, 'You got to shut the door, help your teammates,’" Neuvirth said. "I'm glad I could do that.
"I felt really good. I've been practicing well. We really played defensive hockey tonight. It's so much easier to play behind a team the way we played tonight. It's a great win. We're going to enjoy ourselves today, but it's only one game. We've got to keep working hard."
The Sabres outshot San Jose 7-5 in a scoreless first period, when neither team generated many good scoring chances.
Stalock, making his first start since giving up four goals in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Oct. 19, made three early saves in a solid start to his game.
The Sharks' best chance to score in the period came with 5:41 left when a wide-open Wingels took a pass in the slot but sent his backhand wide of Neuvirth.
Buffalo got a scare at 7:36 of the opening period when Wingels sent captain Brian Gionta hard into the boards and to the ice. Gionta remained down for a minute while trainers checked on him, but he skated off under his own power and took his next shift.
The Sharks ramped up their energy in a scoreless second period, outshooting the Sabres 9-2. San Jose's Matt Nieto had a good scoring chance early in the period, taking a pass from Chris Tierney in the low slot, but Neuvirth rejected his shot. Late in the period, Tierney tried unsuccessfully to jam the puck past Neuvirth on a wraparound.
"If you look at their record, obviously it's embarrassing that we lost," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "But they play well. We were too late on waking up in the third. The good news is we play (Sunday) against one of the best teams in the League. So that will be a good test for us.
"There's nothing wrong with the Sharks. At some point in the season all teams will lose four in a row. You don't want to, but it will happen. We have a good opportunity against a division rival to get out of it."