DALLAS – The Buffalo Sabres held three leads against the Dallas Stars, but couldn’t on to any of them Monday night.
Cody Eakin snapped a tie with 3:14 remaining in regulation to give the Stars a 4-3 victory at American Airlines Center.
Sabres captain Brian Gionta scored twice, his first multi-goal game since Nov. 18, and Matt Moulson also scored for Buffalo. Anders Lindback stopped 35 shots.
“It’s frustrating. I thought we had it. I thought we deserved it,” Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. “We just got a little scrambly and that’s how fast you can lose it. They’ve got a lot of skill and you’ve got to make sure you play tight for 60 minutes.”
Jamie Benn had two goals and an assist to lead the Stars and Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves.
Moulson was in the right spot at the right time to score his goal and put Buffalo ahead with 9:08 left. Ennis came in on a breakaway and his shot hit the crossbar and went straight up into the air. It landed right in front of Lehtonen. Moulson was there to jam it in for his 12th of the year and 14th point (4+10) in his past 16 games.
“No one saw where the puck was until it fell right there. Mouls did a great job of sticking with the play and finding it,” Gionta said. “But we had a lead that late in the game, we’ve got to try to get a better outcome
Dallas quickly tied it up on a goal from Patrick Eaves 2:17 later and then, after some heavy pressure, the Stars took their first lead of the game with Eakins’ goal to win it.
For Buffalo’s first goal, the Sabres were able to sustain some pressure in the Dallas zone. Mikhail Grigorenko won a battle on the left halfwall to get the puck to Marcus Foligno in the slot. Foligno fired a shot and Gionta was able to slide home the rebound off Lehtonen’s pad into the empty net with 6:21 remaining in the first.
Dallas had plenty of chances all period but Lindback stood tall. The Stars ended up with 17 shots in the first and it was the 17th that put them on the board. With 28.5 seconds remaining in the period, Benn, set up in front on a screen, deflected a slap shot by Patrick Eaves past Lindback. The puck trickled in over the goal line for Benn’s 25th of the year.
Gionta was then credited with a power-play to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead with 8:53 remaining in the second period. A shot by Johan Larsson brushed off Matt Moulson, off Stars defenseman Jason Demers and then off Gionta to beat Lehtonen.
Buffalo has now scored a power-play goal in four of the past five games. All of those goals have come from the first unit consisting of Gionta, Moulson, Larsson, Tyler Ennis and Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Stars tied it up yet again on Benn’s second of the game 1:56 into the third. On the power play, Benn scooped up a loose puck in the slot and moved to the left wing to put a low shot in through Lindback.
Nolan would have liked to have seen more of his players dig deep and hang on for the win.
“The work is never a concern but the experience – the lack of experience – those things hurt you, especially when you’re going through experienced teams like we have been,” he said. “You can hold them for certain amounts and you need everybody. We didn’t have everybody tonight.
“We went down to three lines because three guys didn’t play, didn’t deserve to play and didn’t warrant any ice time.”
HELLO, OLD FRIENDS
It was the first game for Lindback against his former club. Buffalo acquired Lindback and a conditional third-round pick from the Stars on Feb. 11 for goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
In Lindback’s nine games with the Sabres, he’s compiled a .926 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average. He’s started seven of those games.
And he was busy all night as the Stars fired 101 shot attempts on net. The Sabres were credited with 43 blocked shots. Mike Weber and Tyson Strachan each blocked eight and Andre Benoit blocked five to lead the way.
“Guys here really dig deep and try to do whatever they can to make saves. It’s honorable,” Lindback said. “It’s fun playing behind these guys because they work so hard, try so hard. But obviously on a night like this, it’s even more disappointing.”
PLAYING THROUGH ILLNESS
Ennis missed the morning skate because he was feeling under the weather and after the game, credited the training staff for getting him ready to play.
Nolan said Ennis really gutted it out.
“We have 20 guys. Tyler probably shouldn’t have even played. But we don’t have any extras so he has to,” he said.
The team called up Tim Schaller from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League prior to the game to take the place of injured forward Jerry D’Amigo. D’Amigo took a high stick to the mouth during the first period of Saturday’s game in Nashville and returned in the third period wearing a full cage.
D’Amigo did not partake in the morning skate and Nolan said he underwent an MRI to see what other damage may have been done because of the incident.
Schaller played in his fourth game in four nights. He was with Buffalo last week but was sent back down to Rochester on Friday. He then played for the Amerks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before flying Monday morning to Dallas.
COMING UP NEXT
Despite the loss of two points, Gionta is pleased to see the team continue to battle hard with only nine games remaining in the season.
“We’re a proud bunch in here and we’re playing hard right to the end. That’s what you like to see,” he said.
Buffalo next hosts the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m.