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Mitchell scores two, helps Sabres defeat Canucks

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres overcame the loss of their top-two scorers and ended a five-game home losing streak.

Torrey Mitchell scored two goals, including the game-winner, to help give the Sabres a 6-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks at First Niagara Center on Thursday.

The Sabres played without forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis because of injuries. Mitchell’s second goal, his fifth of the season, came with 7:17 left in the third period and gave the Sabres a 4-3 lead.

"Our two leading scorers being out, other guys need to step up," Mitchell said. "I felt like it was a group effort tonight and everyone picked up their slack a little bit."

Mitchell scored off a rebound from a Matt Moulson shot that bounced off the skate of Canucks defenseman Alex Biega. The puck went right to Mitchell, who put it past Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, who was out of position.

"For the last number of games, he’s been playing tremendous for us," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said of Mitchell. "And sometimes you should get the credit for blocking shots and playing as well as you do defensively. But Torrey for the last couple of games has been playing a strong two-way game for us and it’s nice to see him score a couple."

Mitchell opened the scoring in the first period after a give-and-go with Moulson on a 2-on-1 against Canucks defenseman Yannick Weber. Mitchell received a pass from Sabres captain Brian Gionta behind Dan Hamhuis that started the 2-on-1. Mitchell passed to Moulson, who gave it back to Mitchell for his first goal since Nov. 22 against the Washington Capitals, a span of 28 games.

"I haven't scored in a long time and it feels good to help the team out," Mitchell said. "I'm a defensive forward, a checker, but it's good to help out at the end of the rink."

Brian Flynn’s fifth goal with 1:32 left gave Buffalo a 5-3 lead. Flynn took a pass from Chris Stewart after Stewart beat Lack to the puck on a play in the Canucks zone. With Lack out of position, Stewart passed to Flynn, who scored into an empty net.

"Honestly I don't think we played well enough today," Lack said. "Obviously I want the last one back; I had no idea what I was doing. But you know what, you just have to forget about it and move on."

Gionta scored an empty-net goal with 1.6 seconds left that made it 6-3. It’s the first time the Sabres scored six goals in a game since Nov. 15, 2014, a 6-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We know it’s in here, that’s the frustrating thing," Gionta said. "When we play with confidence, play with that in-your-face tight gap, we don’t give them much. We’re a much better team. When you can do it consistently, you look at the results we get."

The Sabres (19-38-5) won their first game at home since Feb. 7 against the Dallas Stars. The Canucks (35-23-3) ended a five-game road trip 3-2-0.

"Whenever you lose it's not going to be positive, it just won't be," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "You have to find a way to win that game. We're excited about the games we won, but that doesn't do anything for us tonight. Tonight was the only one that counted."

Andrej Meszaros gave the Sabres a 3-2 lead 4:46 into the third period. Meszaros took a slap shot from the faceoff circle to the right of Lack and went over his shoulder.

"It takes a little while to restructure and rebuild and get the players buying what you’re trying to sell and compete and work and now they’re doing it and don’t feel sorry for yourself when they score a goal and you’re down," Nolan said. "You keep going ... that used to happen in the beginning and now it’s not."

Daniel Sedin made it 3-3 with his 14th goal 7:27 into the third. He received a pass from Henrik Sedin and took a wrist shot that went over Neuvirth’s glove hand. The goal and assist extended the point streaks of Daniel and Henrik to eight games.

"It’s a dangerous game to play," Daniel said. "They worked hard, got pucks deep, and we didn’t play a whole lot of shots. When we tied it up in the third … we made a few mistakes that cost us."

The Sabres and Canucks matched goals in the first and second periods. Mitchell and Canucks forward Shawn Matthias scored 1:02 apart in the first, and Stewart and Canucks forward Jannik Hansen each scored in the second.

"It’s tied with 10 minutes left and we managed to throw it away," Hansen said. "It’s very frustrating."

Stewart’s goal came on a breakaway 8:59 into the second period. His shot was initially stopped by Lack, but crossed the line when Canucks defenseman Adam Clendening attempted to get back to help.

"I thought it was going to count but I don't know," Lack said. "He kind of got into me so I didn't have a chance to play the rebound. It's a bang-bang play that's going to happen. It's a 50-50 call, I can't really say if it's right or wrong."

After video review, it was determined the puck went fully across the goal line.

"I'm just trusting my anticipation," Stewart said. "All my career I've been able to sniff out breakaways, just trust my instincts. It wasn't a picture-perfect goal, but I got a bounce and I'll take them as they come."

Neuvirth made 28 saves; Lack had 18.

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