Overtime pays for Sabres, not for Stars (Jan 26, 2017)
DALLAS -- When the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars meet on Thursday night at American Airlines Center, overtime may or may not come into play.
For the Sabres (20-18-9), who won 5-4 in overtime at Nashville on Tuesday, their third consecutive overtime victory, that would be a good thing considering they seem especially comfortable playing bonus hockey.
Against the Predators, Jack Eichel scored twice for Buffalo, who is 9-10-6 overall away from home but 3-1-0 during its current six-game trip.
Eichel's final goal was the game-winner in overtime.
"I don't think we played our best in the first period," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said postgame. "The way we managed the puck and turned over the puck gave them a lot of opportunities in the first period.
"We were able to minimize the damage in the first and got back in the second, and had two big goals in the second. I just think our team showed a huge amount of character and stayed with it."
Buffalo, 9-3-2 against the Western Conference this season, also got a boost from the return of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who was back on the ice after missing the previous 12 games because of a lower back injury.
The Sabres are 7-3-1 in January and sport a plus-7 goal differential for the month.
For Buffalo's man of the hour Tuesday night in the Music City, that comeback win was the latest example of a positive trend he sees with the Sabres.
"It's great to see the way we played," Eichel said. "We stuck with it for 60 minutes. We go down two goals on the road against a really good hockey team and were able to find a way to get it into overtime
and win it. It says a lot about the resiliency of this team."
Dallas (19-20-10), however, sits on the other end of the overtime spectrum. The Stars have dropped their last three games and are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games.
On Tuesday, the Stars lost 3-2 in a shootout to Central Division rival Minnesota, a game in which Dallas had ample opportunities to prevail, including a 3-on-0 in overtime on which Cody Eakin fired the puck high over Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
And for a team floundering barely below .500, missed chances like that can and usually do come back to haunt.
But Stars coach Lindy Ruff isn't attaching any added importance to this game simply because it's the last one for Dallas before the start of the NHL All-Star break.
"I don't put a lot of significance in it except for the fact we'd like to win the game tomorrow going into the break," Ruff said. "We've worked extremely hard these last couple games to only get two points.
"We've missed two or three great opportunities in overtime and the shootout to get the extra point (Tuesday against the Wild)."
Dallas is 12-7-6 at home, but the Stars are only 3-8-4 against the Eastern Conference this season, including a 4-1 loss at Buffalo on Jan. 16.
However, those struggles against the East don't matter to young Dallas defenseman Patrik Nemeth because he echoes the entire room in saying that time is drawing short of the Stars are to make a run at securing their second consecutive playoff spot.
That's especially troublesome less than a year after Dallas held the top record in the West before losing in the second round of the playoffs to St. Louis.
"Yeah, we got to rack up some wins here," Nemeth said. "I think we're still under .500. The playoff train is starting to leave the station a little bit.
"We need to rack up some wins and build some momentum here toward the last couple months."
Of course, Dallas has to hope, at least in the back of its collective psyche, that this game doesn't reach overtime, especially since the Stars are only 2-9 in overtime this season.
But Ruff isn't one to dwell on his team's overtime problems this season. Instead, he focuses on the bottom line each team tries to be on the right side of following each game.
"Well, there's missed opportunities," Ruff said. "You look at the 2-on-0, you miss that you're not going to win overtime. Like I said last night, my story hasn't changed, we're one save away probably.
"We got the lead in the shootout and didn't hold it. When you get a 2-on-0, you can't say anything but if you don't put it in, you feel like something's going to come back to haunt you."