Sabres use another strong defensive effort to win twice

Buffalo won two games in as many days heading into Monday's trade deadline

Pat Malacaro
February 23, 2020 - 6:17 pm

Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

You could tell both teams were trying to find their legs and passing early in the game. With Sunday being a day game, that means no chance for a morning skate and the normal pregame routine. The passing was sloppy early on, and there was very little flow to the pace of the game. Too many whistles and icings for either team to gain an edge.

However, the Buffalo Sabres were able to “keep it simple” on their first goal of the game to take a 1-0 lead over the Winnipeg Jets at KeyBank Center. Buffalo’s defense has been very active in the offense recently and creating scoring chances by just putting the puck on net. That is exactly what Henri Jokiharju did when he shot the puck from the blue line. His shot hit off of Zemgus Girgensons and then kicked right to Kyle Okposo, who buried his eighth goal of the season.

Sunday was also a milestone game for Jokiharju as the young rear guard played in his 100th NHL game. But he was also on the ice for the Jets' game-tying goal later in the opening frame. Blake Wheeler was able to gain position in front of the net and tapped home a Jansen Harkins pass into the goal to even the game at 1-1.

Buffalo had the shots on goal edge in the middle frame with a 9-6 edge in the category. Overall, through 40 minutes, both teams were credited with 17 shots on goal. Rasmus Dahlin was active in the offense, trying to move the puck quickly out of his own zone and the neutral zone and into the offensive end. He delivered a pass up the ice quickly to Michael Frolik, but the forward could not find a good handle to collect a scoring chance.

Jonas Johansson had to make a couple of big saves on the visitors in the second period to keep the game tied. Harkins had a golden opportunity at the top of the goal crease, but the one-timer was stopped by the youngster. Johansson made 25 saves in his first NHL victory of his career.

Again in the third period, the Sabres' energy line is the one that makes a play to give the team the lead. Okposo buried his second goal of the game, this time with a perfect shot under the cross bar in tight to make it 2-1 Buffalo. Girgensons had a hand in the goal and was credited with an assist, along with Brandon Montour, who made the stretch pass that helped create the chance.

The blue and gold played solid defensively over the final 10 minutes of the game. The Jets last shot on goal came thanks to Mark Scheifele with 9:24 to go in regulation. From that point forward, Buffalo protected the puck and the front of the net well so that Johansson was not forced to make any more big saves.

Buffalo’s challenge will now be tasked with carrying this effort onto the road when they leave for a Tuesday night meeting with the Colorado Avalanche. It is all part of a four-game road trip that will conclude against this same Winnipeg team on March 3 at the MTS Centre.

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