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game recap

Tyler Ennis sparks Sabres to win against Stars

Forward scores 19 seconds into return from groin surgery; Jack Eichel adds two goals

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into his return to the lineup and Jack Eichel scored two goals to help the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars at KeyBank Center on Monday.

Ennis missed the past 30 games after groin surgery on Nov. 10 and gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead. He skated up the right wing and took a shot from the faceoff circle that beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen over his right shoulder for his second goal of the season.

"It felt great," Ennis said. "I was pretty rusty, to be honest. Warm-ups, you got to get used to everything. Last couple days, I was reading up on the systems and making sure I got used to everything… I saw Ryan [O'Reilly] going backdoor. I eventually wanted to pass to him. He kind of got taken away. … [I] tried to go top blocker."

 

WATCH: All Stars vs. Sabres highlights

 

Eichel gave the Sabres a 3-1 lead 7:07 into the second period when he scored on a rebound of a shot in front by Sam Reinhart that beat Lehtonen. Reinhart has three goals and 10 assists in his past 13 games.

Eichel added an empty-net goal with 10 seconds left in the third for his 10th goal. He also had an NHL career-high 10 shots on goal.

"I told myself if I came out here and shot the puck a lot I think I'd get one," Eichel said. "I think in the past few games I was just trying to [be] too cute and [get] opportunities that I can fire it and you're not going to score unless you shoot it. I get rewarded with an empty-netter, which is kind of nice, and a tap in on a great play from [Reinhart]."

The Sabres (17-17-9) won for the first time in three games. The Stars (18-19-8) have lost two straight and six of their past eight games (2-5-1).

Jake McCabe's power-play goal made it 2-0 with 7:26 left in the first period. McCabe picked up a turnover by Stars forward Jamie Benn in the high slot and beat Lehtonen high to the right corner for his first goal of the season.

Video: DAL@BUF: McCabe capitalizes on turnover for PPG

Stars forward Radek Faksa cut the lead to 2-1 with 4:46 left in the first. Forward Jiri Hudler's shot went off the post and the puck bounced off Faksa and past Sabres goalie Robin Lehner for his sixth goal of the season.

The Stars appeared to tie it 1:38 into the second when a shot by defenseman Stephen Johns deflected past Lehner but Sabres coach Dan Bylsma challenged the play was offside. After review, it was found Stars forward Patrick Eaves was in the zone ahead of the play and nullified the goal.

"I think it's just bearing down and making the right plays," Benn said. "We're all good players in here and can make plays. It's just up to us mentally to make those plays and make the right ones."

 

Goal of the game

Ennis' goal was a perfectly placed shot over Lehtonen's blocker.

Video: DAL@BUF: Ennis picks the corner for an early lead

 

Save of the game

Lehner made 31 saves and helped keep the Stars from getting back into it with a clean save against defenseman Esa Lindell with 7:51 left in the third.

Video: DAL@BUF: Lehner absorbs Lindell's one-timer

 

Highlight of the game

Ennis also nearly scored on a lacrosse-style goal from behind the net with the puck on the blade of his stick with just over 3:00 left to go in the first period, but the puck rolled off at the last second.

Video: DAL@BUF: Ennis tries nifty lacrosse-type shot

 

Unsung performance of the game

Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen had a game-high 26:33 of ice time and five blocked shots. He also helped set up Eichel's first goal.

 

They said it

"[Ennis] has been skating a lot for quite a long time trying to work his way back from this injury. He pulls that lacrosse move off quite often [in practice]. To have enough presence of mind to try it in a game when there's grown men out there trying to crush you just shows you kind of where the comfort level he's at." -- Sabres coach Dan Bylsma

 

"I think we were a little bit stunned on the bench. We didn't notice it at first and we were kind of looking around, 'Did he really try to do that?' [Ennis] said he kind of just blacked out and tried it. But that's the element that he brings; that element of creativity and he keeps the opposing team on their heels." -- Sabres center Jack Eichel

 

"He's struggled for a period of time. Obviously his struggles out there were easy to see. He's fighting through his energy, but he's in the lineup so you've just got to assume he's ready to go and I do. I see the frustration. It's hard. I actually had to bump him down and see if we could free the other guys up a little bit. It's been a tough year for him." -- Stars coach Lindy Ruff on captain Jamie Benn

 

Need to know

The Sabres are 8-3-2 against the Western Conference this season. … Reinhart matched his assist total from last season (19) with his assist on Eichel's goal.

 

What's next

Stars: At the New York Rangers on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, SN1, TVA Sports, MSG, FS-SW+, NHL.TV

Sabres: At the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SNO, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Eichel, Lehner lead Sabres to 4-1 victory

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