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Dahlin following 5th straight win: 'I love to play on this team'

Rookie defenseman tallies a goal and assist to fuel comeback in Minnesota

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - Rasmus Dahlin and the Buffalo Sabres celebrated their shootout win in Winnipeg around 9:45 p.m. CST on Friday night. They departed Winnipeg International at 11:47 p.m., landed at 12:45 a.m. and arrived at their hotel in Saint Paul at 1:20. 

Only 17 hours passed before they were celebrating yet another comeback win, this time over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. Dahlin was left smiling at his stall in the visiting dressing room, describing a team that doesn't know when to quit. 

"It's so easy to play on this team because we always know, even if we're down two goals, we're going to get back," he said. "I love to have that feeling. I love to play on this team."

The rookie defenseman was instrumental in helping the Sabres erase a 2-0 deficit, assisting on Jake McCabe's goal with a highlight-reel pass in the first period and then pouncing on a loose puck to tie the game with 7:02 remaining. Jason Pominville tallied the winner with 1:30 left on the clock. 

The 3-2 victory gives Buffalo its first five-game winning streak since March 2012 and, with 26 points in the standings, their best 20-game start since 2009-10. The Sabres have put up 26 points in 20 games seven times in franchise history. Each time, they've gone on to make the playoffs. 

Video: Pominville's late goal propels Sabres to 3-2 win

"I give the players credit," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "It's all them. They're doing the work and it started in training camp, coming into training camp. Our conditioning, our checking detail. I think they're getting rewarded right now for that hard work."

Pominville, a former member of the Wild, saw his return to Minnesota go awry in a 6-2 loss last season. He admitted to wondering if this game would play out the same way after Zach Parise and Matt Dumba scored to give Minnesota its 2-0 lead in the first period.

But this team is different, as they've continued to show. Four of their wins on this run have required third-period comebacks. All have been against teams that currently occupy playoff spots. Oh, and their last two opponents had a combined three regulation losses at home before the Sabres came to town. 

"This whole stretch coming up here, we have six games in nine nights and especially this stretch here, these back-to-backs, is probably one of the toughest I've done in my time in the league," McCabe said. "These are two tough buildings to win in and to pull the wins out like we did, it's phenomenal and it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward here."

Like in recent wins over Tampa Bay and Winnipeg, the Sabres had to rely on their goaltender to keep them in it early. Linus Ullmark made 37 saves in his first start since Nov. 8, biding the Sabres time to stage their comeback. 

It was Dahlin who spearheaded the effort with what was perhaps his best offensive game to date. The first overall pick found a way to weave through four defenders and create a passing lane to find his defense partner in McCabe, stationed at the back door for a one-timer.

Video: BUF@MIN: Dahlin, McCabe combine for pretty goal

Pominville, a veteran of 14 seasons, couldn't help but laugh while describing his 18-year-old teammate. 

"Oh my God. I mean, his first play there, we have two D - him and [McCabe] are down basically below the top of the circles," Pominville said. "He gets the puck and makes a great play and then at the end, again, he joins the rush."

Dahlin's second NHL goal was a lot like his first. Zach Bogosian took a hard shot, leaving Jack Eichel to fight for the rebound in front of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. Dahlin saw the puck lying still in the blue paint and dashed in from the blue line to tie the game.

Video: BUF@MIN: Dahlin buries loose puck to tie the game

The defenseman's brilliance wasn't limited to his scoring plays, evidenced in clips like the one below.

"You could see he kind of had his swagger out there, he had his confidence," McCabe said. "He was moving the puck, he was shaking and baking out there, really. His deceptiveness is really fun to watch as just a player in general. Tonight, he was at the top of his game."

Housley reunited the line of Jeff Skinner, Eichel and Pominville - one of the NHL's best for a stretch of nearly three weeks beginning in late October - to begin the third period, and they picked up right where they left off. Pominville's winner came on a turn-around backhand off an Eichel feed.

"I was trying to go far-side and I think it ends up going post and in," Pominville said. "I mean, I'll definitely take it."

Video: BUF@MIN: Pominville pots spinning backhander for lead

The Sabres will take the day off on Sunday before concluding their road trip against the Penguins on Monday night. Fair to say the rest is well deserved.

"I give a credit to our guys," Housley said. "It just shows the character of this team, the fight and the battle. … With the shortened schedule, overtime, shootouts, you have to go through customs and get in here late and turnaround. I give a lot of credit to our guys that they found the energy to get the job done."

 

Eichel things

This faceoff play from Eichel didn't lead to a goal, but it's still worth watching a few times.

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Jack working his magic off another faceoff, nbd. pic.twitter.com/ucjfPseYTI

Eichel, by the way, tallied two assists to bring his point total to 22 in 20 games. That's a 90-point pace.

 

Up next

The Sabres conclude their road trip in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Coverage on MSG-B begins at 6:30 p.m. with the GMC Game Night pregame show, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops at 7.

The team returns home on Wednesday to host the Philadelphia Flyers. The first 15,000 fans in attendance will be able to prepare Thanksgiving dinner in style:

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: Get your aprons for Thanksgiving dinner! 🍽 🦃 The first 15,000 fans at our game next Wednesday vs. Philadelphia will receive an apron, presented by @NHLNetwork: https://t.co/fOC0FjkdQu pic.twitter.com/7kBWhdMior 

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