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JOHNSON, SABRES OVERCOME EARLY DEFICIT TO GRIND OUT WIN IN SAN JOSE

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

SAN JOSE – For the second game in a row, the Buffalo Sabres were able to keep a high-powered Pacific Division opponent to just one goal. This time, they came away with a win.

The Sabres allowed Marc-Edouard Vlasic to score for the San Jose Sharks on their very first shot of the game, but Chad Johnson shut the door from there and Zach Bogosian scored the game-winner with 7:24 remaining in a 3-1 victory on Friday night at SAP Center.

Bogosian's goal – his fourth of the season and his third this week – came from the point and skipped into the net off the skate of Tomas Hertl. Sam Reinhart was stationed in front of the net, and he pointed at Bogosian in celebration to confirm that the goal was indeed his.

"We grinded that win away, it was a good road win for us," Bogosian said. "Sometimes those ones go in; the hockey gods I guess liked me today."

Johan Larsson tied the game for Buffalo in the second period and Bogosian assisted Evander Kane on the empty-netter that sealed the win with 1:17 remaining. Johnson made 24 saves for his 14th victory of the season.

Johnson was screened on the only shot that beat him, Vlasic's goal 1:28 into the contest. San Jose's Matt Nieto was able to beat two Sabres and maintain possession upon entry down the right-wing side, then dished a backhand pass to Vlasic beyond the left faceoff circle.

Johnson couldn’t see past rookie Justin Bailey to stop the defenseman's wrister.

"It's tough when you let the first shot in but you can try and stick with there and it was a good effort right to the very end," Johnson said. "I thought we just stuck together, played our systems, we got some gritty goals there and just battled hard to the very end."

The win continued the Sabres' recent dominance over the Sharks, extending their franchise-best point streak to 10 games (9-0-1) and their winning streak at SAP Center to five games.

"I don’t know if it's something in the water here but there's been quite a bit of success by the Sabres in this building," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We didn’t talk about it before the game, didn’t want to jinx it, but I do think really the first shot, first opportunity goes in the net on us and we didn’t sink our heads down."

Rather than sink their heads, they swam with the Sharks and won a gritty style of game in which the two teams combined for just 47 shots. It was the type of game, Johnson said, for a young team to learn from and build off of.

"It's good for us to look back on this type of game, even building for next year or just the future," he said. "You can look at these kinds of games and say if you play a certain way you can get wins … you just have to play your systems, play gritty, and I thought we did that tonight."


WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS, SCORE A GOAL
On Friday, the lemons came in the form of a Sharks turnover in their own zone on a routine pass from defenseman Roman Polak to fellow defenseman Brenden Dillon. The pass skipped over Dillon's stick and bounced off the wall and towards the net, where Brian Gionta was able to scoop it up for a quick shot.

The shot looked like it might've been stopped initially, but the puck squeaked out from under Jones' glove and Larsson dove to put it past the goal line, tying the game at 1-1 with 6:22 remaining in the second period.

"It's not going in unless Larsson is going there and going there hard," Bylsma said.

The line of Marcus Foligno, Larsson and Gionta was finally rewarded after it generated ample offense in the loss to Anaheim on Wednesday but couldn't find the back of the net.

"They're getting the lion's share of the defensive work against other teams' top lines and they've been probably generating the most offensive chances even though they've got that responsibility," Bylsma said. "Tonight, they were able to cash in."


PLAYING A CLEAN GAME
For the second time this season, the Sabres played a game in which no penalties were called on either side. It happened previously on Nov. 1 in a win over the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.

That game against New York marked the only other time this season that the Sabres haven’t received a power play. They've now held their opponents to no power plays five times this season.

The lack of special teams chances in this one, Bylsma said, likely played into the low-chance nature of the game.

"At one point, I thought that I probably sided with the refs for the first time this year that there might not have been a penalty in the game," Bylsma said. "But you don’t see that very often, no penalties in a game, and as a result I think the scoring chances for our team aren't going to be that high."


CHAD JOHNSON CAN JUGGLE
The Sabres goalie was sound throughout the night, but his best save – or, at least, his most interesting save – came on a wrister from Patrick Marleau with 2:24 remaining in the second period. The puck deflected into the air off Johnson's blocker, and the goalie did this:

"It was just a weird play because it sort of died on my blocker and I didn’t want it to drop at my feet so it just hit me and it didn’t have a lot of speed on it," Johnson said. "It just sort of bounced in there and I knew it was behind me so I had to try and keep it in front of me. I don’t know what I was doing, but it stayed out."


ONE MORE PARTY IN L.A.
The Sabres are right back at it on Saturday, concluding their road trip through California with a game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. It will be the second matchup between the two teams, with the Sabres having taken a 2-1 contest in overtime at home on Dec. 12.

Coverage on Saturday begins at 10:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.

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