The Buffalo Sabres needed two big points against the New Jersey Devils that sit 11 points behind Buffalo in the standings.
Lawrence Pilut and C.J. Smith each scored their first NHL goals in a big five-goal second period, taking down the Devils 5-1 at KeyBank Center on Tuesday.
Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt and Jake McCabe also scored for Buffalo, while Carter Hutton made 20 saves.
Twenty players got a point for Buffalo in the second period.
The Devils got off on the right foot by opening up the scoring just 1:28 into the game. Devils forward Miles Wood passed the puck into the crease from the corner boards and Blake Coleman tipped it passed Hutton.
Buffalo recorded 11 shots on goal to the Devils 5 in the first period.
“It’s one of those things. We come back here in the room and we know we played well,” Hutton said. “We obviously weren’t up on the scoreboard, but we knew if we’d stick to it, things would go our way.”
In the absence of Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner has not lost his scoring touch. With just over a minute into the second period, Skinner accelerated up the left wing and clanked one off the crossbar glove side high on Keith Kindaid for his 29th of the season, tying the game at 1-1.
Then at about five minutes into the second, Smith received a long pass at the blue line and scored his first NHL goal shooting five-hole. Kinkaid got a piece of it, as it slowly trickled into the net for the eventual game winning goal.
“After [Skinner] scored, we just kept rolling, then I scored, then we got a couple of other big goals, and I was excited for [Pilut], too, to get his first one,” Smith said.
Mittlestadt cutting from the wing into the center ice first fanned on a backhand attempt, then went forehand and picked up his own rebound Mittlestadt to for his 6th goal of the year.
With the Devils on the power play, McCabe blocked a shot in front of his own crease, then Valdimir Sobotka sent a pass to Evan Rodriques for a two-on-one with McCabe. With Kinkaid playing the puck on Evan Rodriques’s stick, he quickly passed it to McCabe for the wide open net making it 4-1.
“He was at the end of the shift and was gassed,” Buffalo coach Phil Housley said of McCabe. “He just dug down and grinded it out. Coming up the ice, he was pushing it pretty hard there. [Rodrigues] made a pretty good play on that, and it’s good to see him finish it off.”
With less than three minutes remaining in the period, the Sabres have the Devils on their heels pinned in their own zone. Pilut takes the puck from the right point and wrists a shot blocker side high for his first NHL goal.
This second period was Buffalo’s highest-scoring period at home since November, 28, 2009.
Entering the third period down four goals, the Devils had their chances to crawl back, but Hutton stood tall on every attempt.
Near six minutes into the third, Brett Seney, intercepted a pass from the neutral zone and passed it to Blake Pietila skating up the middle for a quality scoring chance.
A minute later, Nico Hischier skated all alone on Hutton and banged it off his right pad.
Less than half way through the period, Brett Jesper from behind the net, fed former Sabre Drew Stafford inside Hutton’s crease for an impressive save.
“If you look at tonight’s game, we could talk about nine different ways where we weren’t good enough in any facet of the game,” New Jersey coach John Hynes said. “We all know what it is and it’s not good enough and we’ve got to fix it.”
Photo by Rob Marczynski/NHLI via Getty Images
“I really liked the way our group played tonight. It was a total team effort. Even when we got down one early there, I thought we really controlled the period. We had a shot mentality and that was good to see,” said Sabres coach Phil Housley.
The Sabres are now 4-5-1 in their last ten games and currently sit at the 1st wild card position.
The Devils are 5-5-0 in their last ten, 12 points out of the last playoff slot.