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Sabres rally back for third-period win over Jets

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Perhaps it was the timeout late in the second period when Dan Bylsma ripped into his team on the bench, or maybe it was the third-period goal by Marcus Foligno that put the Buffalo Sabres within ear shot of a tie game. Maybe it was the hit by Jake McCabe that sent Patrik Laine to the dressing room, adding to the momentum that had already been built by a pair of third-period goals.

Whatever the turning point was at KeyBank Center on Saturday afternoon, a game that began with a goal for the Winnipeg Jets and looked bleak for much of the time after ended with hats, sticks and gloves scattered on the ice as the two teams scrapped and a sellout crowd applauded a 4-3win for Sabres.

"It has the feel of a turn-around game," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We needed that in the game and we got it, but it's also a big comeback for the boys, it's a big way to respond in the third period and we left it all out there. We played hard in the third period, came all the way back to get the win. It feels like a big game for us."

In addition to Foligno, Ryan O'Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Gionta each scored goals for the Sabres. Robin Lehner made 32 saves on 35 shots to earn the win in net.

Buffalo trailed 3-1 entering the third period, thanks to a pair of second-period goals scored by a couple of former Sabres. Drew Stafford scored the go-ahead goal on the power play just 90 seconds into the period, and shots were 11-0 in favor of Winnipeg by the time Joel Armia scored at the 7:51 mark.

The poor play inspired Bylsma to use a television timeout late in the period to let is team know exactly what they were doing wrong, and he didn't mince words.

"We needed one, we needed to pull our heads out and get to playing the game," Bylsma said. "We hadn't done that for the first half of that game and we needed to get that message through."

"It really just turned the game," Foligno said. "I think everybody listened, everybody paid attention. We weren't putting pucks in deep and when we did, it was night and day. It was what we saw in the third."

What we saw in the third was three goals in the span of 4:42, beginning with goals from Foligno and Girgensons scored just 26 seconds apart. Foligno was sprung free for a breakaway by a good pass in the neutral zone by Cody Franson, and he was able to squeeze the puck in past the skate of Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck. 

Video: WPG@BUF: Foligno pulls Sabres within one on the break

The puck wasn't immediately ruled a goal, but Foligno knew it crossed the line.

"I saw enough white to celebrate," he said. "I think it might've persuaded the ref to point at the net."

Once Foligno scored, the Sabres seemed to control the remainder of the period. Girgensons' goal tied the game after O'Reilly won a battle along the wall and Matt Moulson found Girgensons at the door step. 

Video: WPG@BUF: Girgensons taps in rebound to tie the game

Gionta's go-ahead goal was the product of another good play by O'Reilly, who this time made a pass up across the zone to find Gionta skating through the slot. Gionta showed patience as he drifted to the right away from the net, forcing Hellebuyck to drop to ice and give the Sabres captain the space he needed to find the back of the net.

Video: WPG@BUF: Gionta holds the puck, scores go-ahead goal

At that point, there was still 10:06 remaining in the third period and Bylsma said he felt like a football coach whose team had completed its fourth-quarter drive a minute too early. But the Sabres never let down; they finished the period having outshot the Jets 16-5. 

In the middle of all of this was the third-period hit from McCabe, who stood up Laine - Winnipeg's leading scorer and the League's leading scorer among rookies - with an open-ice hit in the neutral zone. While Laine was down on the ice, Mark Scheifele immediately engaged McCabe and earned a minor penalty for roughing. 

McCabe was forced to leave the game with to tend to his own injuries; he said his head collided with Laine's leaving him with stitches both above and below his black right eye. He did return at the end of the third period and was on the ice for final horn, opening door for Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to attempt one last retaliation.  

A brawl ensued behind the net, with Lehner joining in and attempting to fight the Jets defenseman. Bylsma shrugged when asked if he minded his goalie getting involved.

"That was one of our six on the ice and they had six," Bylsma said. "So, the buzzer had gone, I thought it was a good time for him to go out there."

The Sabres have now earned five points in three games since being swept in a home-and-home series against Boston. They'd prefer to start better than they did on Saturday, of course, but the way they rallied leaves them with something to build on when they play game No. 40 against Philadelphia on Tuesday.

 "That's got to be our call and our cry. We've got to be, all of us, we've all got to be tired of not winning hockey games … This is kind of the way it was for us coming out in the third, we can't accept not winning hockey games here and the guys came out in the third and answered the bell."


Gorges sits due to injury

Josh Gorges was a late scratch after warming up with the team due to the same hip injury that forced him to miss Tuesday's game against the New York Rangers. Gorges had since played in Chicago on Thursday and practiced on Friday, but Bylsma said he didn't feel 100 percent partially due to the 1 p.m. start. 

Taylor Fedun stepped into the lineup in his place.


Up next

The Sabres conclude their two-game homestand when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center on Tuesday night. It will be the second of the three meetings between the two teams this season, with the Flyers having earned a shootout win in Philadelphia on Oct. 25. 

Coverage on Tuesday begins at 6:30 p.m. with the Tops Pregame Show on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops between the Sabres and Flyers at 7 p.m.

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