SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – There was no stopping Joe Pavelski, who played as though the season was on the line.
Pavelski scored twice and the San Jose Sharks ended a long streak of futility against the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-1 victory Tuesday night.
“In the short time I’ve known him, he cranks it up this time of year,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “Those type of guys see the finish line here and the playoffs and they start to get really excited.”
Logan Couture and Michael Haley also scored, and Martin Jones made 22 saves for his 32nd win of the season. The Sharks snapped a five-game home losing streak to Buffalo and ended its franchise-best 11-game point streak against them.
Jack Eichel scored early for the Sabres, who lost their fourth in five games. Eichel also inadvertently helped the Sharks score the go-ahead goal late in the second period.
“I think we were determined to win this game regardless of whether we got a bounce or not,” DeBoer said. “We had one called back in the first. We didn’t win because of a bounce. We won because we earned that win and we were the better team all night right from the drop of the puck. I think we knew the history and we wanted to put an end to it.”
In the final minute of the period, Haley got a piece of the puck off Eichel’s stick. It bounced off his skate in front and then off goalie Robin Lehner’s pad and into the net.
“There are moments I’d like to have back, just like that one,” Eichel said. “It’s something that is not normal. It stinks. It almost feels like the turning point in the game. They get a goal at the end of the period and all of a sudden they’re leading going into the third.”
Lehner stopped 37 of 41 shots.
“It was so close. So close,” Lehner said. “When it gets behind my stick, I tried to do something but it was awkward. They lived in our zone and they closed it out. I don’t think we deserved to win this one.”
Buffalo scored just more than a minute into the game. Josh Gorges took a shot that bounced off Jones’ chest, and Matt Moulson alertly sent the puck over to a wide-open Eichel.
After going 0 for 20 on shots in the first period, the Sharks started making them count. Pavelski took a pass from Couture and drilled it into the net midway through the second.
“It would have been easy to get frustrated,” DeBoer said. “We recognized that we were doing a lot of good things and just stick with it and eventually we broke through.”
After Haley’s unassisted goal, Pavelski scored his second of the game off a rebound early in the third period. Couture scored his 24th with 5:03 left to make it 4-1.
NOTES: It was Pavelski’s 46th career multigoal game. … The Sharks had a season-high 20 shots in the first period. … The Sabres posted the second-fastest goal of the season (1:10) against the Sharks. … Eichel scored his seventh goal in nine games. … Moulson has points in four of his last five games. … Sharks C Joe Thornton reached 40 assists for the 14th consecutive season.
Sabres: At the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
Sharks: Host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
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