20240314 Postgame Web

Dylan Cozens said the Buffalo Sabres always believed they could make a push, even when others were counting them out as they sat 10 points out of the playoffs in the week leading up to the NHL trade deadline.

The group continued to showcase that belief on Thursday as the Sabres swept their three-game homestand with a 4-0 shutout win over the New York Islanders inside KeyBank Center to move within three points of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

“I know a lot of people counted us out, but this group in this room, we never counted ourselves out,” Cozens said. “We knew what we did last year and found a way to get close. And I think last year, we kind of let the outside noise make us think we were out of it. And that's something we've learned this year, don't worry about the outside noise. Just worry about this dressing room and each and every guy in this room and just go out each and every day and do whatever it takes. And that's what we're going to keep doing.”

The Sabres improved to 32-30-5 with the victory and have 69 points, trailing Washington's 71 points and the Islanders and Detroit Red Wings, who each have 72 points. Buffalo can inch closer to the final Wild Card spot when it visits Detroit on Saturday afternoon in a rematch of Tuesday’s game, which saw the Sabres defeat the Red Wings 7-3.

Dylan Cozens addresses the media

Sabres coach Don Granato said following the game that the team will continue to take things one day at a time with a focus on resetting and repeating its recent success.

“I don’t know if the math was ever against us,” he said. “I think there were other things against us. But the math is always, you play 82 games and teams lose games every night and teams win games every night. You’ve just got to stay in the moment and stay focused, and we have to do that.”

Buffalo came out energized in the first period, holding the Islanders without a shot in the first 10 minutes of the game. Despite a 13-5 advantage in shots in the first and a 19-9 edge in shot attempts, the Sabres and Islanders went into the locker room at the first intermission tied 0-0.

Rather than get frustrated, the Sabres stuck to their game and scored three goals in the second period.

Victor Olofsson opened the scoring for the Sabres after Anders Lee went to the penalty box for interference. Olofsson scored 19 seconds into the ensuing power play off a feed from JJ Peterka. Dylan Cozens extended the lead less than four minutes later when he put away the rebound following a shot from Connor Clifton at the point. Zach Benson closed out the second-period scoring with a deflection in the slot before he capped off the Sabres’ victory with an empty-net goal in the third.

“That’s a really experienced, poised hockey team over there,” Granato said. “They’re not gonna be and they weren’t rattled by the first period by any means. So, you’ve got to stay on it, and I give our guys a lot of credit for doing that.”

Don Granato addresses the media

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped all 21 shots he faced, including 10 saves in the third period to record his fifth shutout of the season.

“He's been incredible,” Cozens said. “You got so much confidence in him back there. We know he's going to make big saves. He's been arguably the best goalie in the league for the last while. He's just been outstanding back there for us, and it's awesome. We're all so happy for him.”

Here’s more from the win.

1. With his two goals against the Islanders and three points in Tuesday’s win over Detroit, Benson became the youngest Sabres skater since Rasmus Dahlin from Dec. 15 to 16, 2018 to record five or more points in a two-game span.

He also became the third Sabres player to record a multi-goal game at age 18 or younger, joining Pierre Turgeon and Phil Housley, according to NHL PR.

Granato believes Benson’s hard work is being rewarded on the scoresheet and that the 18-year-old’s confidence is growing more as the games go on.

“He’s worked really hard, and he has so many details to his game,” Granato said. “... He puts himself in the right spots and now that confidence is moving toward the scoring side. He’s had confidence just playing, but I think now he’s gaining more confidence in scoring and that’s a big thing.”

Zach Benson addresses the media

2. Defenseman Bowen Byram recorded an assist on Benson’s empty-net goal and now has five points (3+2) in four games since being acquired by Buffalo on March 6.

Byram joined John Van Boxmeer as the only two Sabres defensemen to record five or more points in their first four games with Buffalo.

3. Peyton Krebs played in his 200th career game, skating 13:54 while going 7-for-8 from the faceoff dot.

The Sabres held a 7-3 edge in shots when he, Jeff Skinner, and Peterka were on the ice together at 5-on-5.

Up next

The Sabres open a five-game road trip with a Saturday matinee in Detroit.

Pregame coverage on MSG/MSG+ begins at noon with puck drop scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Out-of-market fans can watch the game on NHL Network.

Radio coverage can be found on WGR 550.