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Sharpen Up: All the Sabres news you need to know on February 17, 2020

Buffalo rode strong 3rd period to victory over Toronto last night

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

Tied 2-2 in the third period, the Sabres scored three times in a matter of 1:31 to come away with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. 

They'll be back at practice today before heading out to Ottawa for a game on Tuesday. Pregame coverage on Tuesday will start at 7 p.m. on MSG. Faceoff has been pushed back to 7:52 p.m. due to a pregame ceremony in which the Senators will retire former defenseman Chris Phillips' jersey number. 

Here's what you need to know. 

A look back at last night

Tweet from @BuffaloSabres: when you see the border traffic

From the Postgame Report…

Video: Sabres score three unanswered in 3rd to beat Leafs

Jack Eichel knew the stakes. So did Kyle Okposo and Jimmy Vesey and the rest of the Buffalo Sabres, who spoke in the days leading up to their meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday about the anticipated emotion of a game that would be crucial to their hopes of clawing back into the playoff race. 

They rose to the occasion. The Sabres turned in a dominant first period despite not scoring, parlayed that momentum into a two-goal lead in the second and, after the Maple Leafs tied the game in the third, responded with a barrage of goals from Eichel, Okposo, and Vesey to earn a 5-2 victory. 

The Sabres will visit Ottawa on Tuesday having won three games in a row. A 10-game stretch coming off the All-Star break that began 1-3-1 ends 5-4-1, a sign of a team that is getting healthy and has no plans to quit. 

Video: POSTGAME: Eichel

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger 

"It was huge," Eichel said. "Every game for the rest of the year is going to be big for us. But it was the next one up on the schedule. They were coming off a back-to-back. We wanted to have a hard first period. I thought we just carried it through the game.

"We're starting to get the confidence going again in the room, and I think that's everything. You see we're getting contributions throughout the lineup."

Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said in the morning that, for the first time since the team left for Sweden in mid-November, he felt comfortable sending any of his four forward lines out against the top lines of an opponent. The returns of Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner plus the play of Curtis Lazar at center have given the team a balance up front its been striving for since early in the season. 

That balance showed up on the scoresheet, with members of all four lines finding the back of the net. Johan Larsson and Conor Sheary scored Buffalo's first two goals in the second period, both off shots from the point by defenseman Colin Miller. 

Video: Rasmus Ristolainen Postgame Show Interview

Video: POSTGAME: Okposo

Video: POSTGAME: Vesey

 "There was a desperation today that we've been building something here this week at home," Krueger said. "This homestand began very disappointingly and we've fought and worked hard to get our game back after the break and get the bodies back and all that coming together here with these three wins in a row has certainly been built on a battle level, a compete level that is important this time of year."

"This rivalry is awesome," Okposo said. "It's only going to continue to grow. They've got a young team, as do we, and we're going to continue to fight to make it a playoff rivalry. … The fans that came out to support us are going to remember games like this." 

Read the full recap here. 


Stats and more

Courtesy of @SabresPR…

With the win, the Sabres improved to 21-5-2 in their last 28 home games against the Maple Leafs.
The Sabres scored three unanswered goals in a span of 1:31 to seal tonight's win. The last time Buffalo scored three goals in 1:31 or less was April 3, 1998 in a 5-4 win vs. Boston. Brian Holzinger, Matthew Barnaby and Vaclav Varada all scored within a span of 1:08.

With his goal, Jack Eichel (.824 G/GP vs. Toronto) surpassed Alex Ovechkin (.820) to become the active leader in goals per game against the Maple Leafs (min. 5 GP).

Eichel's goal-scoring rate against the Maple Leafs currently ranks sixth among all players with at least 10 games played against Toronto in the expansion era:

  • Blaine Stoughton: .94
  • Mario Lemieux: .94
  • Wayne Gretzky: .87
  • Cam Neely: .84
  • Ulf Nilsson: .83
  • Jack Eichel: .82

With his 79th career point tonight, Rasmus Dahlin has tied Ray Bourque for the second-most points recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 20th birthday. He now trails only Phil Housley (132) for the most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman.

Dahlin now has 14 points (2+12) in his last 15 games, including at least a point in each of his last four games (1+4).

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