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Scary good: Sabres match franchise record with 10th straight win

Skinner scores in OT to keep streak alive vs. San Jose

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

All throughout the third period on Tuesday night, one request reverberated from the sellout crowd at KeyBank Center.

One, two, three, four five, six, seven, eight, nine … We want 10!

As has often been the case lately, the Buffalo Sabres gave the people what they wanted. After surrendering a two-goal lead in the final 8:31 of regulation, Jeff Skinner sent the building into a frenzy with an overtime goal to clinch Buffalo's 10th straight win, 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks. 

The streak ties a franchise record first achieved in January 1984 and matched to begin the Presidents' Trophy winning campagin in 2006-07.

Rasmus Ristolainen, one of the longest-tenured Sabres now enjoying his first taste of success with the team, still had the fans on his mind when he spoke postgame.

"I'm really happy for us, but really happy for them," Ristolainen said. "They've been supporting us all these years when I've been here. Six years, tough years. And it feels great to see them happy and the building's been rocking the last few games."

Video: Skinner's OT goal seals Sabres' 10th straight win

It's hard to imagine anyone in the crowd of 19,070 ever had their mind on anything but a postive result. It felt as though the Sabres had done it in every way possible through the first nine games of the streak. They protected leads, erased late deficits, found ways to win three shootouts. 

But the Sharks presented a new challenge. Ristolainen and Nathan Beaulieu scored to put the Sabres up 2-0 with 15:46 left to play in regulation, but a pair of goals from Joe Pavelski wiped out their lead. Ristolainen said he never felt his team waver.

"No, I mean last 10 games when it's a tight game we feel confident," he said. "If we're down, we don't panic. We believe. We have the belief now. We know if we play the way we play usually we're going to get our chances. We've been getting one more goal than the opponent the last few times."

Rasmus Dahlin folded his hands together in an attempt to describe the team's camaraderie. 

"We are like this right now," he said. "I don't know how to describe it. Everyone sticks together. We go out there and it's a war. Everyone's does everything they can to win."

Dahlin set up Skinner's winning goal in overtime, taking the puck at the half wall with Erik Karlsson, one of his idols growing up in Sweden, hounding him from behind. Dahlin tossed the puck behind his back then raced around Karlsson toward the San Jose net. 

Sharks goalie Martin Jones was aggressive in leaving his net to poke the puck away from Dahlin, which left room for Skinner to bury his 19th goal of the season.  

Video: SJS@BUF: Skinner scores in OT, Sabres tie team record

"I didn't see what happened there, I lost sight of it, but Ras made a great play I think going to the net, made their goalie commit," he said. "I just kind of walked into one that was in the slot."

The victory propelled the Sabres ahead of their next opponent, Tampa Bay, back into first place in the NHL with 36 points. The standings will remain that way until the two teams meet in Tampa on Thursday.

That game will also present a shot at history for the Sabres, who can set a franchise record with their 11th straight win. Rick Jeanneret deemed the moment worthy of dusting off an old call after the Sabres clinched No. 10, another request from the fans.

"You asked for it, you got it," he said. "These guys are good ... Scary good."

 

Hockey Fights Cancer

Video: Nathan Beaulieu on HFC and another Sabres win

Beaulieu didn't find out he would be in the lineup until around 11 a.m., when it was deemed that Marco Scandella would be unable to dress. It meant an opportunity to play in front of a special guest on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. 

Beaulieu met Zaida through his work with the Courage of Carly Fund at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He welcomed her to practice on Tuesday, and she was in attendance for the game against the Sharks. 

Video: Beaulieu makes special connection

Zaida was on the defenseman's mind after he snuck to the back door and buried a feed from Sam Reinhart for his third goal of the season.

"A lot of emotions were going through," Beaulieu said. "Obviously, it was a special night and it was a big goal for Zaida to be here and just everyone, really. It's everyone being here. It's just an amazing story. It was a nice way to end off a special night."

Ristolainen, too, had someone in mind when he found the back of the net. 

"It was great to score tonight for the cancer night," he said. "It was for my grandpa. He died a year ago from cancer, so it felt good."

The night began with a video tribute honoring local members of the community and their fights with cancer, followed by a ceremonial puck drop at center ice. Watch the ceremony in its entirety below:

Video: Sabres celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer

The purple sweaters worn by players during warmups are available now for auction at Sabres.com/auctions. Auctions for other autographed items are also underway through Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. with proceeds to benefit Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

See the Sabres players share who they fight for in the videos below:

Video: Players on Hockey Fights Cancer 1/3

Video: Players on Hockey Fights Cancer 2/3

Video: Players on Hockey Fights Cancer 3/3

 

The best offense … 

The Sabres have gotten consistent offensive contributions from their back end all season, a trend that continued with Ristolainen's and Beaulieu's goals on Tuesday. They now have 14 goals from defensemen, four shy of their 82-game total from last season.

Entering play on Tuesday, the Sabres were one of five teams in the league with goals from seven different defensemen. They were one of two teams (along with Ottawa) to have five blue liners contribute multiple goals. 

These last two weren't shots from the point, either. Ristolainen caught a breakout pass from Tage Thompson off the boards in the neutral zone and crossed the blue line with speed, deking by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns as he cut to the net and roofed his third goal of the season. 

Video: SJS@BUF: Ristolainen puts puck through legs, scores

"I just tried to take the puck to the net," he said. "I got a step in front of him and took it to the net. Lucky it went in."

Beaulieu's goal was nearly identical to the one he scored against Vancouver on Nov. 10, with the defenseman finding a seam to sneak to the back door for an easy tap-in.

Video: SJS@BUF: Reinhart sets up Beaulieu's tip-in tally

"I think it's just kind of reading," he said. "My legs felt good tonight. We knew we wanted to attack the game in the third. … I just found a hole and Sammy made a world-class play."

 

Sabre-metrics

•   Carter Hutton made 36 saves to improve his career-best personal winning streak to eight games. 

•   Skinner's goal placed him in a three-way tie with Winnipeg's Patrik Laine and Boston's David Pastrnak for the NHL lead. He's on pace to score 65 goals, which would be the second-highest mark in franchise history. Alexander Mogilny holds the record with his 76-goal campaign in 1992-93.

•   Reinhart's assist gives him 11 points (2+9) in his last 12 games. The Sabres are now 12-0-0 this season when he records a point.

 

Up next

The Sabres begin a three-game road trip in Tampa on Thursday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 7 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7:30. 
 

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